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sary? Wouldn’t it be better if that word were exchanged for another?”

I even think at length about commas and full stops, and when I publish a story and the press makes a mistake and puts a comma in place of a full stop I feel embarrassed towards the readers as if I have committed an unforgivable crime. And when I decide to make a change in the plot of the story or to change some of the words, those changes are made quickly and easily.

Is this because you have a huge linguistic inventory at your disposal? And perhaps because you are an avid reader?

No, it is not because of stored linguistic information, it is due to the richness of my stored life experiences.

• Habits and motivations

Do you write every day? What are your writing habits?

For me, writing is greatly linked to the mobility of the body. Whenever I can move, my ability to think and write is energized. It is also related to my feeling of being surrounded by people.

In Damascus, I used to write when I walked along the street or sat in a restaurant or café, so when I am surrounded by the noises of crowds my concentration becomes better and I can write quickly and easily – the surrounding noise becomes like the soundtrack of a movie. But in England I became used to writing on the bus or the train, and I wrote most of the stories of the books We Shall Laugh, Sour Grapes, and Breaking Knees on the train between Oxford and London. If I am forced to write at home because of bad weather, I write with difficulty and very slowly. I usually write the first draft of a story by hand in about an hour, then I copy it onto the computer, and spend days, weeks or months reviewing, editing and making the final adjustments. I have been used not to think in advance about what I will write, or about the story, until the moment I hold the pen and am ready to write.

Who reads the story before it is published?

126 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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