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KT: How long did it take you to write this novel? And what are the main difficulties you encountered in the writing process?

AS:This novel took me around ten years to write. In fact, I started it while I was working on another book. Then I developed a neurological illness, and the only thing I felt able to write about was my body and the spasms and pains I was enduring. The first five years of the process were extremely difficult, as it was hard for me to concentrate. I was determined to write every day, but because of my inability to concentrate, I didn’t produce anything coherent. Some time after that, I came across more than thirty notebooks filled with disjointed words and phrases. The novel had been forming itself in my head during that period, and my imagination had been ignited in a powerful way, but it was only later that I wrote what I did. KT: In his review of your book, literary critic Abdo Wazen refuses to call it an autobiography. Do you agree with him on this point? And to what extent does your heroine Basma resemble you?

AS: Abdo is right. It isn’t an autobiography. Everything beyond Basma’s physical suffering is fictional. I used to wonder to myself: if I’d developed this illness as a dancer, what would have happened to me? Consequently, I chose to have Basma be a dancer who suffered from the same health issue that I had. Everything having to do with the Lebanese war and the Arab wars in general, as well as with Basma’s pain and her struggle with illness, is the outcome of my own experience. The ugly, devastating wars that were ravaging the Arab world had shaken me deeply, and I detected a resemblance between my pain-racked body and the cities collapsing around me. KT:The sick body in your novel becomes a battlefield between the passion for life and destructive religious fundamentalisms. In other words, it represents today’s sick, exhausted Arab states. Are you drawing a parallel between betrayal by the body and betrayal by political parties, religions, states and societies? Do you intend for the pain of the body to enter into a struggle with the pain we experience in Arab countries?

AS: In this novel, I express my anger at ISIS and Hezbollah equally, since, in my view, these racist, doctrinally bigoted parties

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 71

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