The Open Door is a landmark of women's writing in Arabic. Published in 1960, it was very bold for its time in exploring a middle-class Egyptian girl's coming of sexual and political age, in the context of the Egyptian nationalist movement preceding the 1952 revolution. The novel traces the pressures on young women and young men of that time and class as they seek to free themselves of family control and social expectations. Young Layla and her brother become involved in the student activism of the 1940s and early 1950s and in the popular resistance to continued imperialist rule; the story culminates in the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Gamal Abd al-Nasser's nationalization of the Canal led to a British, French, and Israeli invasion. Not only daring in her themes, Latifa al-Zayyat was also bold in her use of colloquial Arabic, and the novel contains some of the liveliest dialogue in modern Arabic literature."Not only a great novel, but a literary landmark that shaped our consciousness."--Abdel Moneim Tallima "A great anticolonialist work in a feminist key."--Ferial Ghazoul "Latifa al-Zayyat greatly helped all of us Egyptian writers in our early writing careers."--Naguib Mahfouz
Latifa al-Zayyat (1923-96) struggled all her life to uphold just causes-national integrity, the welfare of the poor, human rights, freedom of expression, and the rejection of all forms of imperialist hegemony. As a professor of English literature at Ain Shams University, her critical output was no less prolific than her creative writing, but the creative, academic, and political strands of her personality were interwoven. The Open Door is generally recognized as her magnum opus. Marilyn Booth, the translator of numerous works of Arabic fiction, is Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University.