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Noted Syrian writer

Al Zahaby says good novels only come after 40


Al Zahaby says good novels only come after 40



Ziad Mayman

Syria, 27 July 2011 (Poetry News Agency) – Damascus has always been in the mind of the great Syrian novelist Khairy Al Zahaby. He portrayed it as a beautiful woman and a heavenly place in all his writing.


Perfecting what he wrote, Al Zahaby had managed to satisfy the taste of his readers and also others who wanted to see his novels turned into movies. In this interview, Al Zahaby lets the readers of the Poetry News Agency into his thoughts and the most important phases of his career.


Sir, there has always been a conflict of opinions between you and the Syrian writer Hana Mina. Why has this existed?


I have never been at odds with the Syrian writer Hana Mina. Mina, however, has always identified himself as having lived in Damascus for a long time. The problem is that Damascus is a city that is not easy to understand.


Syria had undergone several conquests. That was why the city had always learned to hide its beauty for feat ayht the conquerors would steal it.


If you go down one of the alleys of the Syrian capital, it is easy for you to notice the enormity of darkness it has. But when you step into one of the houses of this alley, you feel as if you entered heaven.


But this heaven was created by the people of Damascus only for them to enjoy. In this, Damascus is different from western capitals where you can find the beauty everywhere showing itself.


Some people say poetry is already beyond its days of glory. What do you think of this?


Let me tell you that poetry has been eclipsed by other literary arts a long time ago. Poetry has always been the preserve of an elitist class of people. It was the preserve of kings and court people.


The question now is: what about the rest of the population? The majority everywhere found it difficult to understand poetry and interact with it. This is why I like to say poetry had never been a popular literary art.


When the Mamluks and the Ottomans came, the class of people who used to enjoy poetry have an appetite for it had totally disappeared. But this does not mean that peoples across the Arab world did without all other sorts of art.


They rather enjoyed story-telling and other forms of novels. This encourages me to say that poetry had been the special territory of the Arabs on pre-Islam days. Later, however, it did not become that.


What effect can short stories have in the presence of the novel as a literary genre?


Short stories had never had history. They are not likely to have any future either. Some people like to hype the effect of the short stories, but they seem to blowing things out of proportion. Short stories had never made it to literary perfection. I do not think they will have any success in the future.


Most of your novels turned into either films or TV serials. Do you think these two media had managed to deliver the crux of what you wanted to say in the novels?


I published my first novel in 1973. Novel made great successes when it was published by the Syrian Writers’ Association.


I was sitting in the Writers’ Association one day when two cinema directors approached me and said they would turn the novel into a TV serial. This was unprecedented because the novel was released six months earlier.


I was 30 years old then. But this made me change my thinking. I had to think of how I could write novels that everybody could understand. I became preoccupied with this idea for a long time later.


Does this mean that you were writing for TV only?


Of course not. But I forgot to tell you that I studied cinema in Egypt. I did not pursue a career in the cinema after that. Later, however, I learned to write scripts. This helped me write novels that have a TV touch in them.


Did you have a particular reader in your mind?


Let me be frank with you by saying that writers do not always have readers in their mind when they write. Writers only write the things they like. Readers are not an important element in writing yet.







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