THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
Everything in life seems to have some invisible type of lesson or wisdom embedded in it that reaches us indirectly. Nothing in life is free, and I like to say what I want to say with the least number of words. Simple language, which can express all that the writer hopes to say, is a language that is necessary from an artistic standpoint but it is not a style that many can master, for it is that “elusively easy yet beyond reach” style that demands a deep knowledge of language and a real skill of taming and kneading it. In all my stories language was never a barrier preventing them from reaching the reader, it was the themes that were the more difficult part. A hasty analysis would make it seem that my dropping out of the school system at an early age had left negative influences, but what actually happened with me had the opposite effect on me because when education is of low quality it creates cumbersome chains. Early on, I used to read everything that could entertain and educate me regardless of how famous or not the authors were, and I started to write without a guide, listening only to the inner voice that egged me on and urged me to write. Perhaps this is what led me to write a different kind of story, one that does not strictly follow what the critics call the rules of the art of story writing. There are many examples of Arab writers who have wasted many years of their lives attempting to break free from the backward and banal concepts that continued to be passed down from one generation to the next by schools, universities, or authoritarian families.
In your style you mix the illusory and the imaginary with the real, and mix the logical and the illogical. Contradictions are present, and so are sarcasm and harsh criticism. Are these the elements of a successful story in your opinion? How do you judge a story to be successful?
I am not a critic. But every writer tries to convey to you a specific thing about people and places. When he’s successful in portraying that and it reaches me as a reader, it stops being important to me whether he is modernist or traditional. I am one of the biggest fans of the traditional short stories of Abdul-Salam Ojeili.
Sometimes listening to criticism has its negative side, for example when the writer does not know what he wants. If the criticism praised the poetic style of some writer that writer would uncon-
122 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015