THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
The first reader is my wife Nadia. I trust her comments and it pleases me to listen to her, and sometimes I beg for her help. When I was busy with the book We Shall Laugh I fetched a dictionary and begged my wife to close her eyes and put her finger on any word, and when she did I would use that word and build a story around it. Sometimes she would cheat and not close her eyes – trying to find a difficult word, a word around which it would be difficult to write a story but, nevertheless, I would go ahead and write it, anyway.
What makes you write? What motivates you?
After the publication of my first book my fate was determined, and I wanted nothing else in life to do but to write, although I don’t know what motivates me. I am like a programmed machine that works non-stop (except during illness) and my motivation to write is just me, so I write what I want to, not expecting fame, glory, or position; and not concerned about the views of critics because I think most of those views are not true or accurate. In the 1960s an Arab critic claimed I had imported the problems of the mechanization of society from the west, since the Arab world did not have such problems. His claim was false, because in 1936 the workers of a textile factory in Syria started a strike and destroyed the automated textile machines; and in 1952 there were factories in Damascus that were fully automated. What that critic claimed was copied by other critics and this mistake resulting from ignorance became a solid fact, like night and day. Even western critics make serious mistakes. There is a novel by Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and into the Trees, which American critics agreed was one of his weakest works. But I find it to be one of his best. It may seem to the reader that it contains a lot of superfluous material but it is not like that at all. It’s the story of a man who’s survived many heart attacks and the doctors warn him the next attack is imminent and will be deadly. However, he goes out with a girl who loves him, they live together and go out to restaurants, bars, nightclubs and parks. For example, Hemingway describes the process of eating a hamburger in great and boring detail, but when you relate that scene to the other events, you know this could be the last hamburger he ever
128 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015