Huddud’s House: ‘The Last Thing I Need Is for People To Read My Book Because It’s Forbidden’

He was born in Germany, and he writes very well in English. This is my mission, and this is what I do. Sarmada has a lot of language, images, very particular words. We have a voice, and we write our stories. For Syria, I wrote in my Facebook to all the Syrians I know: “Start and write your own novel, don’t worry about the quality.“ I urge everyone to write. We worked for two or three months together. Yes you can write articles, but for novels it needs time. The reason why the book is forbidden in Jordan is probably because of one scene which appears late in the book and is not the main aspect of the story. This gave me a lesson, and I will give this to a new generation. But for me it is not the issue. FZ: It is like everything else, it has positive and negative aspects. TM: Your first book was translated by Adam Talib. How closely did you work with the translator? The parts that were removed will maybe come into another novel. To be honest, I don’t love or hate London, I respect this place, but   my place will always be in Syria. Writing will help the Syrian people – it’s the only way. I read more than two hundred books for Sarmada, because it was something unique. I don’t have the luxury that I am a writer. I am from a small minority, but I don’t need to be a writer for the Druze, I am writing for humans. Fadi Azzam: The first spark was in Dubai. We worked together but suddenly he disappeared – after one week my publisher called – Fadi, I have bad news. I have two characters, one lives in London, one in Dubai. This is what I think about all the time. But, when you are writing   only for the prize, it’s a very bad thing. The actual scene doesn’t exist in the novel anymore. Everyone treats me now as a revolutionary. I read hundreds of pages, and I did a lot of interviews, some with my friends, some with people I didn’t know. I don’t speak about it at work. Sometimes I am the writer’s voice, sometimes I am the characters’ voices. When I saw the list, I only knew one. He is looking after me – he read one article about Damascus from me, and told me to start writing. I am happy to work with him again in the future. Fadi Azzam: In Beit Huddud I worked hard on finding a balance between fact and imagination. But my wife loves London. Writing is very hard when the land is still moving. Syrian author Fadi Azzam, born in Taara, near the city of Suweida, started writing Huddud’s House back in 2012, just one year after the start of the Syrian revolution:
It was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the second time for the author, after Sarmada was longlisted in 2012. It was interesting to see how a stranger reads my novel. I don’t need to speak about art, I need to practice art. Together with his wife Nasrin Trabulsi, who is a journalist, Azzam is now living in London. Because I didn’t have this experience before, I did a lot of research. My publisher told me that we don’t need to go to the media before the shortlist, after that maybe we go. The translator did it according to her mind and she never spoke with me. In London, I have to work, and work hard to stand out. But one day, they will be finished, and this is discussed in the book, too. in Arabic Studies from the University of Leipzig. This is very good. This balance, I have to do it anywhere, and I don’t want to lose it. If I talk about it, it may give the impression that I want to make a noise, but even if they forbid my book, I will write to anyone in Jordan who wants to read it, and I will send it for free. I had a strong story, but at the same time I had to place it in a historical and geographical setting. This is a good thing originating from the prize. The translation to German was made by a Turkish guy, Hakan Özgan, he lived in Syria, and he speaks Arabic very well. TM: What was the spark for Huddud’s House? There is always this part where I am treated like a refugee, and they will put me into this category, “Wow, you are a Syrian writer,” etc. TM: How do you think that form and content are working together in Huddud’s House different from Sarmada? The land is moving when you are writing. If I would change the book I would add an introduction at the beginning of the book as a kind of proof or certification that it’s coming from real people. There exists an English and American version. How much did your move affect your style of writing and how closely are you connected with the literary scene in London? Writing about London is difficult as well for several reasons because I don’t know the place like I know Dubai for example. I don’t use one voice while writing, the voice is changing. Or we go to the extreme. Let’s take, for example, writing about Damascus, which was a very big challenge. My friend who is living here said you are touching it but you are not going very deep. My friends said that the translation by Adam was very good. When there are unclear parts, he tries to understand in this way to get more independent. How much freedom does he have in translating the text? FA: In Sarmada, the research part was different from in Huddud’s House. How I work is I do a lot of research. Did you change the process with Huddud’s House? TM: You live now in London. I asked him to be very careful when he translated and he was, and he felt it also. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading…‹ Teaching with Arabic Literature in Translation: ‘Arab Literary Travels’Categories: International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), SyriaTags: Beit Huddud, Fadi Azzam, Sarmada This is what I feel a lot of people do. The good thing is, they push the people to focus on this kind of art, and because of the Booker price, we have new novelists. There is this question. We discussed everything when he had problems with one scene or one conversation. On my mind are two things, entertainment and knowledge. Rafik Schami is a very special person for me. It is becoming a struggle now and I am stuck on how to react to this issue. A lot of writers said, You are good because it is something special. He is from time to time writing for online magazines such as Mada Masr and Qantara. In London, I didn’t change the habit. TM: Was the writing process different from your first novel Sarmada? FA: It is very hard to become part of the scene in London. It is the same with articles. It was a great challenge to understand it, but Adam translated the soul, he caught a lot of different things. In Sarmada it was more explicit and stronger, but this is politics and not because of one love scene. When he started to work with it, he used Adam Talib’s translation, and his supervisor was Rafik Schami. My father, my family are still in Syria – and I am waiting for answers every day. He asked me, can we change it, and I said no, because it belonged to the story. When my characters are feeling love, they go back to the human language, and when they face ugly things the language has to be very clear. He was originally British, but he had stayed in Syria for a long time. If you translate it, you translate it like this. It is a novel. In Germany, my friends are writing books and find support. My friends who read it in Italian said it was very terrible. It is because of a sex scene between a man and woman, and it is described as an image like a relationship between God and the human. Even some Syrians had difficulties in understanding some passages and parts of the book. We sat down together for a Skype interview to talk about Huddud’s House and the fine line between reality and imagination. When I go to work, I never mix it with my writing. We worked very closely together. We have eight new writers I haven’t heard about on the long list. I need people to read it because they want to read it. In Beit Huddud, I conducted more interviews, and it was grounded more in reality. The translator wanted to change his life, and he wanted to go to the Vatican. I never would go to this level without Rafik Schami – he gave me the opportunity, and he is kind of my godfather. I never write about a city if I haven’t visited it, because you will see my character in London moving in the same area where I myself am living. It is a very mysterious city, and not easy to write about and, to change all the localities from a small provincial to a big city. My technique was to draw a picture of everything he didn’t know and asked about. With Beit Huddud, people, especially revolutionaries, had high expectations. In this book, I have two pages about detainees in the jails of the regime. We need to ask about who created this prize, we need to be clear about it. I don’t need it. For me, it was a very good experience. Good things will arrive and succeed. Especially in the third part, there are a lot of things, you have to know, a lot about history for example. There will be a Turkish translation. For example, I write about ISIS, and how I could put ISIS in the book was a challenge, because when I finished Beit Huddud, ISIS was still in Raqqa. TM: If you are looking back since you started writing the book, how do you feel now about the book being published, and if there are any changes what would they be? He gives a gift to another generation and gives the opportunity to writers who he chooses very carefully. I start working at four in the morning, I try every day to write before I go to work. This prize is coming from the Emirates. Although neither book advanced to the shortlist, his first book Sarmada was translated by Adam Taleb and published back in 2011 by Swallow Editions, an imprint established by acclaimed Syrian author Rafik Schami. I told him, “Oh my god, did I shock him?“ After that, Adam Talib came, he was living in Egypt. It was a very interesting time. I tried it a little bit, but it is not my usual thing. Adam is really amazing, and a hard worker. If you don’t enjoy my readings or do not get information, it means I am a bad writer. I had to place my character Doctor Annis in this atmosphere. It is very hard to write about things when everything is on the move. This is good, but when I write about Dubai, maybe I think whether I may criticize the regime or not, or if I’ll receive the prize if I criticize. Last week, the novel Beit Huddud was banned in Jordan. I have two separate lines in my life. My publisher got a letter that it is forbidden, and it is now official. The last thing I need is that people read me because my book is forbidden. FA: Before Adam, the publishing house talked about another very good translator. TM: In what terms do you think the IPAF award is important for young authors? Tugrul Mende holds an M.A. In the first novel, you put in everything you have, because it is your first book. Did a change in the subject matter demand a change in the content? He knew the accent and the culture very well. Does it help you to get more recognition, and what are the positive and negative aspects for having such an award for you as an author? FA: It is completely different. In my opinion, you have to enjoy or to present something new. This issue is different than in Sarmada. This is it. In Italy, I think the translation was very bad. Someone is giving me a hand – and I give my hand to others. You are more independent and you don’t have the pressure of expectations. If he can feel it, it means he can translate it. In moments of extreme tension, writing is very difficult. Translating this book was very difficult. The land is moving in Beit Huddud, while it was stable in Sarmada. Without Rafik and his trust, this would never happen. It is the first time that she likes a city, and I love this about London. With this free source, the people share this creativity and the media, and not only big writers have the chance to write. The novel was over 1000 pages long, so there were some cuts to be made, but when you cut it from the novel the main idea still exists. In Dubai, my character was more comfortable in moving around because I have been living there longer and I know the city and have the experience and knowledge about living there. They are amazing, they have something to say in a very good way. If you can’t find the word, you have to translate the feeling.