The brilliant novelist Khaled Khalifa, whose In Praise of Hatred (trans. Leri Price) was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and who recently released the acclaimed There are No Knives in the Kitchens of this City, always seems to hold onto some moral clarity when the rest of us are smacking our heads in despair:
Khalifa was recently interviewed by the Times of Malta’s David Schembri, via translator Walid Nabhan, as Khalifa is set to appear at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival August 29-31, should the Syrian government allow him to leave.
Khalifa told Schembri: “The world will regret leaving Syria sink into this destruction and this quagmire.”
And on his writing:
Sometimes I feel scared just to think that I’ll stop writing. Such dark ideas haunt me when I finish writing a new novel, especially after sending it to the publisher; I feel completely drained and there is nothing left to be told or done. Now, after so many years of professional writing, I have become wiser than to squander my raw materials, and I think my life would stop if I stopped writing.
There Are No Knives in the Kitchens of this City was published in Cairo, but:
I think of Syria as the best place to publish my books, but I am deprived of this right. In Praise of Hatred is still banned. I think No Knives in the Kitchens of this City is also barred. I still dream, though — believe that my dream will be realised soon — that my books will be displayed in all Syrian libraries.
He also told Schembri that he still hopes:
Why live if there is no hope? I am very confident and quite sure of the goodness and civility of the Syrian people, and their love for work. The regime and terrorist groups will never be able to turn the clock back. Syria has no choice but hope.
A number of world writers will appear at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, August 29-31, at the Msida Bastion Historic Garden, including Iraqi Hassan Blasim and Palestinian Mazen Maarouf. The authors will also take part in a Literature Across Frontiers translation workshop before the fest, translating each other’s works into their languages and reading these translations during the three nights of the festival.
Thanks to the angel-reader who gave me access to the text.