Best-selling Kuwaiti Author Bothayna al-Essa on the Anti-Consumerist Attitude Needed to Write

BE:   Yes, definitely, at least five   people. Bothayna al-Essa: I don’t think I had a say in the matter of me writing or not. Sawad Hussain: Music, painting, dancing are all forms of art and self-expression. But I’m yet to finish it. There is always something that we learn, something we achieve and something we fail at. BE:   I’m working on a novel. BE:   I look at translation as a way of reaching readers that I didn’t originally intend to communicate with. SH: Which of your novels do you hold dearest? It’s not an issue of not having enough time. Tomorrow, ArabLit will run an excerpt from   Maps of Wandering,   trans. SH: Do you end up making edits based on their recommendations? My relationship with the words is more than any other form of expression. SH: What are you writing now? There were certain public opinions that were against the other forms of expression. Some of the reviewers were my friends and others were writers whose opinion I value, whom I approached to take a look at my work. It’s upon the writer   — all of us actually, not just writers   — but writers in particular to go up against this way of life. For example, I gave it to Mohammed Hassan Alwan because in the novel there are some sections from his hometown in Saudi Arabia. The third thing is that we need solitude to create. BE:   The style is closer to Maps of Wandering than my other novels. BE:   I have a routine when I write, but it differs from novel to novel. Sawad Hussain   is a Cambridge-based editor-at-large for ArabLit who is also an Arabic translator and litterateur who holds a MA in Modern Arabic Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies. SH: Two of your novels are currently being looked at by different publishing houses to be translated into English. Because of this fear, I always find time, even if it’s just one hour, to write. By entering into this cycle, we lose ourselves and the   true voice we hear in our heads when we experience setbacks in this world. BE: It’s tiring and relaxing at the same time! The final thing is that we need a lot of dialogue. I jumped outside of the usual concerns of a Gulf woman. Photo credit: Sawad Hussain. If we follow this logic, then every book hits the target that it’s meant to. So writing was the only one that hadn’t been declared taboo. Even if they’re just simple exercises, they’ll keep us ‘fit’ as writers. If I don’t write, it has an impact on my life, my temperament. SH: Is the style of the novel similar to your previous ones? SH: What are you reading at the moment? Even for us to write one word, we have to have read hundreds before that. For me, it’s about experimentation and making attempts, to answer questions and to pose them. The way the world works   — it’s designed such that we’re transformed into consumers, and it consumes the individual by making them   into a consumer. Just being organized. In this novel I decided to go directly to the heart of the matter that was nagging at me. One has to engage in writing exercises on a continuous basis. Maybe simply because we as women don’t like to portray ourselves as the perpetual victim or the oppressed female. SH: What was your   aim in writing I Grew Up and Forgot How to Forget? I think in my previous works I would go in circles around this topic, but I was scared to broach it with this level of clarity and transparency. So because I have work in the morning, and my children to take care of when they come back from school, with homework and so on, most of the time I start writing from 8pm until midnight. The author speaking at this year’s Emirates LitFest. We had a shared panel where we got to know each other, and we thought it’d be a good idea to read each other’s books. Their feedback was really positive. To hear other perspectives and opinions. But to be honest I don’t treat the act of writing with the logic of success and failure. I think because I matured whilst writing it, as a writer, technically, and as a person. BE:   Yes of course. For Maps of Wandering, I shared the drafts with a number of people. SH: How do you find the time to write? BE:   My family isn’t really into literature. As a child, I studied the Quran and memorized it. Best-selling Kuwaiti author Bothayna al-Essa was recently part of this year’s Emirates LitFest as well as the AUK Biennial LitFest:
In the second installment of a   special   feature on the journeys of Arab women writers, ArabLit’s Sawad Hussain   sat down   with   al-Essa, whose novel Maps of Wandering   was one of the top sellers of 2016 at book fairs and online retailers. What advice do you give them? Since the beginning, it’s not just with this book, but rarely there’s a book that my family reads the whole way through. With the novel I’m working on right now, I find myself in the bookstore of Takween every morning. BE:   I’m reading Mansoura Ez Eldin’s Emerald Mountain. If it will make the book better, I am more than open to making edits. Maybe they don’t belong to this region, don’t share the same issues, don’t share the same religion, but it’ll be interesting for me to see how these new readers receive my stories. BE:   Maps of Wandering. SH: What   do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer? The first thing is to read. Writing is the way in which I can express myself fully. What is your opinion on the act of translation? BE:   I think the life of a writer is one of continuous attempts. It delves into the current political climate in Kuwait and how this is reflected in our households and everyday lives. I think it’s also a matter of how I was brought up. Hussain. What really scares me is that one day I won’t be able to write. My mom and my sister are the only ones who read my work from my household. If so, who? And they’ll help us develop our tools as writers. Also, I like the sounds, the letters themselves. I learn from reading, but certainly I learn a lot more when I discuss with someone what I’ve read. It’s impossible to be an authentic writer without being a serious reader. Why writing? So for Maps of Wandering, I used to write in the mornings until nighttime. I don’t want to see it from this perspective. BE:   The goal of this book was to lay bare the reality of oppression, especially the oppression of women. SH: When you’re done with your first draft, do you show it to anyone? I’ve written in worse conditions where there were more demands on my time. You’re a mother, you have Takween…  
BE:   It’s a matter of being organized. The subject matter itself   — there was a lot of challenge and enjoyment in it. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrPinterestPocketLike this:Like Loading…‹ Palestinian Poet Ahmed Dahbour, Friend of Mahmoud Darwish, Dies at 71Categories: Kuwait, women The second thing is to interact with writing like a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened. SH: Do you feel relaxed when you write? She is passionate about all things related to Arab culture, history and literature. SH: What was your family’s reaction to the book? Note:   This interview took place in Arabic and was translated by Sawad Hussain. SH: You’ve established Takween, a performance space, bookshop, and a school for budding writers. It should be published later this year from the same publishing house. BE:   I always advise them to do four things. They’re more interested in business. I like the strange energy that comes from fusing one letter with the next, one word with the next. SH: Do you have a routine when you write? That’s it.