Interviews with IPAF Winner Saud al-Sanousi

There have been a number of interviews with the (charming) winner of this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) — Saud al-Sanousi, for his The Bamboo Stalk — in English-language media or English translation. I think, as these interviews leak through cracks here and there, reaching readers and editors, there will be more interest in al-Sanousi:

Al-Sanousi at a talk at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kathryn Kasimor.
Al-Sanousi at a talk at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kathryn Kasimor.

Among them are the video Keredine Mabrouk produced for the IPAF  award ceremony. In it, al-Sanousi reads from his book and talks about the significance of bamboo: “This is the stalk we cut from any part of the bamboo and has no roots which can then be implanted in any ground, and it will grow new roots. And it will start anew with no recollection of the past.”

Granta magazine had a brief podcast interview with al-Sanousi, in simultaneous translation by Fleur Montanaro, in which he says that he felt pain at seeing the picture that the “other” had of Kuwaitis, “So then I wanted to make the reader feel the same pain.” He added: “I believe that pain is the thing that makes you change.”

Granta interviewer Ellah Allfrey asked if there wasn’t a “campaigning aspect” to what al-Sanousi was doing, and whether there had to be a purpose to what he was writing.

“I confess that I write for myself and not for the reader,” al-Sanousi said. “If I had not felt felt regret, remorse, repentance even, I would not have written a novel.”

“I am criticizing myself when writing the novel,” he said.

There is a fairly shallow interview with Al Shorfa, the US Department of Defense news site in Iraq. He says: “If at this point of my career as a novelist I can count ten constant and loyal readers, after winning the prize that number could go up to 100, for example. Therefore, I need to be cautious about what I [write]. But, as I said previously, I write more for myself than for my readers, and I count myself among these readers.”

Yesterday, there was a longer interview with the Arab Times Onlinewhich ranges over a number of topics. In it, al-Sanousi talks about books, saying, “It started when I was very young. Even before I learned how to read or write, I used to love books physically. It may seem funny, but it’s the truth. The book was a magical realm for me, before I even learned my alphabet.”

He also said he wasn’t sure what he’d write next: “I’m currently very withdrawn from the writing process in general, from before winning the award, and even more so after. My readership base has widened, and as such, out of respect for them and for myself, I will wait until I have something new that I need to express to them. Only then will I move towards writing something new.”

You can also watch and listen to a number of interviews (in Arabic) on YouTube, for instance this one on Monte Carlo Radio.