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Revolution Is My Name: An Egyptian Woman’s Diary from Eighteen Days in Tahrir
by Mona Prince
Translated by Samia Mehrez
AUC Press, Egypt, 2014.
ISBN: 978-977-416-669-3. Pbk, 192pp, £9.99/$16.95
“This remarkable, civilized, and historic people”
There are many writings on Egypt’s January 25 Revolution in which, in eighteen days, the people of Egypt successfully forced President Mubarak to step down. Revolution Is My Name is not just an addition to these works but a unique contribution in the form of a diary written by an observant and intelligent woman writer with an understanding of ordinary people.
Born in Cairo in 1970, the author Mona Prince is an associate professor of English Literature at Suez Canal University. She has published novels, including So You May See (2011), and several short stories. She is a keen advocate of freedom of expression and women’s rights, and was a self-nominated candidate for the presidency in the 2012 election. Some would add that she struggled with the opposition to her tough criticism of religious intolerance.
Beginning with admiration for the Tunisian revolution, mentioning the Facebook posts calling for the first mass demonstration on 25 January, Prince describes how she become involved in the daily demonstrations and gatherings in Tahrir Square. Apart from people’s strong determination not to stop their action until they achieved regime change, it was the attractiveness of the space itself that served to sustain their spirit. People from various areas and with different backgrounds changed the square into a festive space where they shared the pleasure of being present.
The author records many hilarious jokes posted on Facebook, or witty slogans, voices of protest and conversations on the street. These are valuable data for readers, especially those who are outside Egypt, to relive the event. Readers will also find in this diary the pride and joy of being Egyptian, in addition to expressions of love for the homeland: “I went back to the Maidan, feeling proud that I belonged to this remarkable, civilized, and historic people”. This is not meant to make non-Egyptian readers embarrassed or to exclude them, but is a kind of invitation to share the positive mind of Egyptians, and their great capacity for joking and enjoying life. For a long time, under Mubarak’s regime, they could not express these feelings, and many of them had almost forgotten how. Therefore, non-Egyptians can empathise with these feelings, while some might even consider them enviable happiness.
The author insists on doing things her way during the daily demonstrations, for example, looking good by going to the hairdresser, and dressing well because “revolution does not mean that we must look bad and shabby”. She takes a rest, sleeps or showers in a friend’s apartment near the square before she is completely exhausted, and on one occasion she reluctantly stayed at home to avoid an irrevocable conflict with her mother who was against deposing Mubarak. In short, she never forgot to take care, and did not go to extremes. It is clearly different from a concept of revolution where acts of self-sacrifice are glorified and respected as being the most noble. Prince’s position seems a mixture of the characteristics of her generation, her social class and her own personality, and that was surely one of the distinct currents among those gathered in Tahrir Square.
All readers know that the situation after the ousting of Mubarak has broadly departed from the hopes of the people involved initially in the revolution. But Egyptians truly changed their society and the relationships between people during that short period, and this experience is what can be shared by many people of our day.
Published in Banipal 53 - The Short Stories of Zakaria Tamer