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Together with the experience of maturing as a novelist, my illness prompted me to tone down the shrillness of the text. My novel has been strengthened, rather than weakened, by poetry; fiction can be especially persuasive when its characters allow for this type of poetic language. I treat all characters and their cultures with the utmost respect, making sure that they have the artistic justification necessary to speak out of their own culture and their own natural inclinations.

As for the presence of violence and illness in the novel, the reason for this is my sense that our society is ill. Consequently, the characters embody the presence of death, imperfection and incompleteness. The body in this novel takes on a different dimension than those highlighted in my other works, since the stories of our bodies resemble the stories of our cities. The individual body and the country bear some resemblance to one another. These are the basic ideas posed by the novel in narrative form. The anger I felt and the pain that would come over me in response to the scenes of violence I used to witness led me to imagine numerous characters, most of whom suffer from some defect or dysfunction while being targeted by the arrows of violence that whizz about them. KT:Your novel is filled with art.The main character is a dancer and a choreographer, her sweetheart is a painter and a poet, her best friend is a writer, and the man to whom she tells her story is a director.You say somewhere in the narrative that “writing, music and art generally can rescue a person from suicide” (p. 258). Do you actually believe that a return to art can be a kind of salvation?

AS: Art is a kind of therapy that causes us to grow deeper, more aware and more in tune with ourselves. Art is a key to discovering yourself and your surroundings; knowledge and culture enable you to be freer, more beautiful, more conscious. Knowledge changes people, and when they possess the capacity to read their inner states and express themselves, they change. This is why our Arab regimes are afraid of knowledge. They’re afraid of the arts because they confront the brutality of society and, in particular, its brutality toward women and humanity as a whole. Our societies fear knowledge and, instead, promote the vacuous and the trivial. They fear knowledge because it’s

74 BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021

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