Based on fourth-century Christological debates and the travels of an Egyptian monk, the Arabic novel Azazeel (2008) was accused by the Coptic Orthodox Church of defaming Christianity and fomenting Christian-Muslim sectarian strife in Egypt. The conflict over the novel was quickly characterized as a standoff between religious proscription and the right to freedom of expression. This way of casting the debate failed to comprehend the complex stakes Azazeel mobilized, eliding substantive disagreements about religion, history, and literature. Through a careful reading of the novel, the response it elicited from the church, as well as the Christological controversy at the heart of the novel, this essay forces us to reconsider what it means to claim the autonomy of literature from history, to cast religion as a human invention, and to ponder the humanity of Christ.
Saba Mahmood; Azazeel and the Politics of Historical Fiction in Egypt. Comparative Literature 1 September 2013; 65 (3): 265–284. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2325095
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