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your writing. In this novel, by contrast, you burden your characters with worries relating to issues of politics, party and religion as well.Why this new direction?

AS: In all my novels there’s an obsession with giving courageous voice to taboos: religious taboos, bodily taboos, and political taboos. I don’t believe there can be any creativity without freedom, and writing is freedom. A novel has to address human concerns. It conveys a vision. It makes a statement. It holds space for preoccupations, fears and worries. Unfortunately, however, most of the novels I encounter read like news reports.

In this novel, I’ve spoken of all the things that cause me pain. However, I don’t feel I’ve weighed my characters down with the things I’ve given them to carry. The political voice in my novel isn’t rhetorical or moralistic. Rather, it’s woven into the fabric of a narrative whose characters are flawed and incomplete. A political preoccupation may be more evident in this novel than it has been in my other works. If so, I see this as a reflection of the political and social experiences of those living in the Arab world, and as a way of criticizing laws, systems and popular beliefs that impact Arabs and the course of their lives. My novels are banned in most Arab countries. But I can’t write if I try to restrict myself to what the censors would allow past their desks. I don’t even know how to censor myself. My anger in the novel is directed against all systems, especially those that hinder the woman’s freedom, contribute to her enslavement, or disregard the violence and tyranny she endures. KT:Throughout the narrative, readers encounter the horrific violence going on in Arab countries.There is such cruelty and bloodlust that you even liken the Arabs in one place to prisoners, saying:“At that moment I felt as though we were all trapped in a giant prison whose doors were impossible to open, as though one of the prison guards had thrown the key to the bottom of the sea. And here we are, imprisoned, as though we were dying” (p. 288).Why this narrative violence?

AS: Of course there’s cruelty in the novel. However, it’s a cruelty mitigated by irony and poetic language. This is precisely what I put to use in my previous novels, including, for example, Maryam al-Hakaya (Maryam: Keeper of Stories), or Dunya.

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 73

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