Hisham al-Khashin’s ‘Graphite’: A Feminist Novel?

ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly

Hisham al-Khashin’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction-longlisted Graphite shows women struggling against social conventions in Egypt. But do they get anywhere? 

By Mohga Hassib

GraphiteGraphite is the substance in the drawing pencil of the Hisham al-Khashin’s heroine, Nawal ‘Aref, as she sketches her journey in life. The novel opens with a letter from Nawal, a talented young artist, to her father, as she narrates her voyage to Paris to study history at the Sorbonne. The novel then goes back in time and recounts the events that led to the writing of that letter.

Nawal’s father is a progressive Egyptian man who raises his daughter after his wife’s death. In one of his letters to Nawal, he writes urging his daughter to focus on her education in Paris and come back strong “especially in a community that deems a woman a burden, and plans to eradicate her by her first cry of…

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