Another One for the IPAF Longlist: Ezzedine Choukri Fishere’s ‘Exit Door’

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere was shortlisted for last year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge. At the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, where the 2012 announcement was made, Fishere also talked about his plans to serialize a new book, Exit Door, which he planned to finish in time to submit for the 2013 prize.

In his review for the Egypt Independent, Sherif Azer enthusiastically writes: “‘Exit Door,’…definitely deserves a place on the 2013 Booker shortlist.”

One of the fascinating aspects of this book is that it was written in both an old-fashioned (Jurji Zaidan, Charles Dickens) and a contemporary (NaNoWriMo) way. Fishere serialized the novel, and thus — like Dickens — had many suggestions from readers on how to develop his characters and story. But he also did it at a much faster clip.

It wasn’t quite a NaNoWriMo pace (68 days vs. a single month) but it was close.

Fishere told AhramOnline’s Mary Mourad and Sayed Mahmoud last July:

…I was writing on day-to-day basis, sending the chapter by midnight for editing, finalising it in the early morning, then sending for publication for the next day’s papers. I was, most of the time, only two to three days ahead, but overall, it was a difficult task that required dedication for each of the 68 days until it was completed.

Reading the feedback comments of the readers was very exciting, and in some cases I had to make tweaks here and there in reaction to some of these comments, and in some cases had to speed up events, and sometimes change them.

An additional dimension of course was the actual events happening in the country, and sometimes they were running faster than my own imagination! I recall in particular that right after publishing the chapter about the conflict between the police and the residents of Ard Al-Lewaa a [deprived area west of Cairo], an actual conflict happened in the same neighbourhood involving police and residents! It was really unbelievable, and I had to take such things into consideration.

I must say it was a really good experience, but I’m not likely to repeat it anytime soon. It’s also a challenge because you cannot take back what your write; no time for correction or going back. The context had to allow for this speed and some degree of chaos: a man writing a letter to his son in great haste, and thus making some repetitions, skipping some details, etc.

But Azer notes that, despite how challenging the rapid serialization of the novel sounds, “Fishere succeeded, suggesting that this might be the most convenient way to write about the revolution, with all its daily dynamics and speedy developments.”


The IPAF judges speak about Fishere’s 2012-shortlisted Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge.

Exit Door’s Goodreads page