Any Last Requests?

Saad al-Ashmawi. A headsman, reaper of souls; a murderer authorized by law. After taking hundreds of lives, he has developed an uncanny ability: just as the blade strikes home, as the body crumples to the ground, during that momentary journey down the well into darkness, this supernatural ability opens his eyes to see and understand the thoughts of those who are crossing over into death.

The human soul is the one possession most dear to any person. Death, also, is beyond price. That is why he could see into the minds of those about to die in those final moments of stark terror. He saw amazing things before the day that changed things forever. He asked the traditional question before execution, “Any last request?” He offered to fulfill a final wish, then made the fateful cut, and then he would see their thoughts. This time however, the thoughts were of him. His life from that moment on would never be the same, thrown into complete chaos by his quest for the truth behind this ability. From a world perpetually awash in death in the execution chamber, he found himself in a completely different world of the dead, one far more wild and perilous.

Mars One: No Return

[I haven’t read the book yet, this is a translation of the synopsis above]

Mars One: No Return a project underway in the real world.

Are you bored? Discontented with life on planet Earth? Do you dream of a journey away from the familiar? We can make your dreams come true. All you have to do is apply online.

Be warned: it is a one-way ticket; there is no return trip. Every two years a crew of four will be sent, you could be on the next mission. You need to be fully prepared.

Four individuals decided to undertake this suicidal voyage and to be on the first mission. The public motivation for the trip: Help mankind take a giant leap forward. In reality, each individual has their own reasons and hidden motivations for making the irrevocable decision to depart planet Earth and never return. The project was attacked on humanitarian grounds: How could they go along with sending a human being on a one-way voyage? The cleverest aspect is that some of the project’s profits will come from pay-per-view! There will be a live feed broadcasting the details of the crew members lives on the surface of Mars.

The novel’s events occur between 2005 and 2025, but the seed of the tale was planted while the world was embroiled in events. International conflict, a plethora of intelligence factions, and various organizations forced their way on to the stage along with nations allied with one another and at odds with each other. Let the events of this tale carry you on a unique trip through time, space, and the human heart. From Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Tel Aviv, Crimea, Australia, America, to outer space and Mars. This novel tells the tale of four complete strangers whose lives were brought together by political decisions and worldwide economic shifts. You will gain a deeper understanding of what it means when someone you have never met explains the intricate details of a mission you know had never heard of that has been involved in an important part of your life. This story will present past, present, and future combined with political thriller, romance, horror, comedy, action, fantasy, and the magical world of space.

El Yassob [The Dragonfly]

[translated from the back cover]

Year: 2071

Location: The Kingdom of United Southern Arabia (Egypt, Sudan, and Nubia) – Eastern Desert Sector

The World: Females, males, and … Dragonflies

A new and terrifying world with different classes. Under the rule of a mercilessly harsh queen, a misandrist who hates anything to do with the Y chromosome. She is trying to completely eradicate men through an insane plot to manipulate genes to eliminate the need for males. Women have been promoted, placed in high-level positions, and given all white-collar jobs. University education is exclusively available to women. They have primacy in every arena. The queen selects the strongest, most handsome, smartest, most gifted and outstanding men as her “Dragonflies”, and they are fanatically loyal to her.

Seif, a former Dragonfly, spent fourteen years at the mother colony, the one directly connected to the queen’s palace. He now finds himself on the freeway along the Aswan border. He does not know how he got there, much less where he is, but he knows one fact: He does not want to return to the colony, though it offers everything he could desire … he does not want to be a Dragonfly, though that position comes with all of the advantages possible for a man to possess in that nightmarish world full of terrifying events. Instead, he wants to be a regular man. A nothing who has nothing but poverty, ignorance, and hard labor.

The penalty for treason is clear. The choice is not really a choice: life in the Waterfalls Prison, or going to the submission declaration chamber after serving five years.

At the colony’s prison, Seif found himself among a group of men who had set two goals for themselves: escape from that hellish place, and permanently eliminating the queen in order to return everything to its rightful place. Then the world could go back to its natural order: male and female, and … nothing else.

Will the men succeed in returning things to normal and gaining back their natural rights in the world, including work, education, and even medical treatment?

I haven’t made enough progress

I mentioned that I was looking into translation Yaasoob by Ehab Abdelmawla. I’ve translated a bit, but not nearly as much as I ought to have done. He has come out with two others since then: Mars One: No Return and Any Last Requests (thanks to an Egyptian friend for telling me the significance of the phrase نفسك في أيه!).

I’ve translated the back cover material for both books, I’ll make them into two separate posts in case you want to share or save them.

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[Translated] Poetry is the Shortest Path to Prison in the Gulf – Raseef 22

Iman Ali 10/4/2015 – translated by Tarjema

Muawiyah al-Rawahi did not know that his Omani citizenship, which allowed him to drive his car across the borders and bridges in the Gulf, would be the thing that would entrap him. Muawiyah was on his way to the Sultanate of Oman, crossing the border they share with Emirates after a short trip to the neighboring states. This border was the source of many tales of problems encountered by colonists, regular people, and transients. Muawiyah had relayed these stories in his blog, “Muawiyah al-Rawahi’s Delirium”, the contents of which were deleted after his arrest.

However, this was not the first time that Muawiyah was detained. The Omani authorities placed him in a mental hospital as part of the sandstorm blowing through on the winds of the “Arab Spring”. They considered him subversive to the Qur’an and an atheist, writing vertical poems, and teaching people how to memorize verses with the help of numbers.

Muwawiyah

Muawiyah al-Rawahi

Muawiyah has several books of poetry and prose, including his most recent volume, “The Charter of Salvation”, in which he talks about his experience in the prison/hospital. However, Muawiyah did not raise the ire of anyone through his literary work. Instead, it was his virtual presence on his blog and YouTube channel. He “theorizes” that the internet is like an “intellectual experiment” to determine and discover the self. He “intellectualizes” to his viewers through long vlog posts about a walk to buy cigarettes or a trip to look for a taxi driver. Muawiyah thinks that his “lengthy postings distance him from impatient meddlers, and provoke the eyes of security observers who are worn out by the ramblings of all-night chatter”. These video clips are part of what the poet calls a “free-form” of “field extrapolation” of his surroundings.

On Muawiyah’s channel on YouTube, we find his recorded poetry, including poems about Sultan Qaboos that seem to have been written after he was released. They might be a subtle attempt to reconcile with a man who has remained untouched by overthrow and revolution. But the poet’s repentance was not accepted; if the Sultanate refrained from arresting him again, prisons do not respect borders. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, before and after the Gulf Security Agreement, have the ability to take over an issue like this. Muawiyah’s visit was the perfect opportunity to discipline the neighbor’s child and to settle the score with a young author for his criticism of “the authorities of the Emirates and the state symbols”. Muawiyah’s family did not know where in the Emirates he was imprisoned. Talk was that he was being tortured.

Author Fatimah Alshidi sees her colleague al-Rawahi as an example of “the phenomenon of personal and text abuse”, fluctuating between “acceptance, refusal, overt compliance, and internal departure”. Al-Rawahi is now waiting for his court hearing coming in October, after it had been postponed yet again. Despite the seriousness of his statements, the Sultanate’s literati have not completely given up on Muawiyah. They have released a statement requesting his release, and some of them have continued to write articles and blog posts about him.

Ghermezi

Ayat al-Ghermezi

Poet of the Perpetual Revolution

The Gulf prisons are not just for agitators and modernists. Often times the poet in prison is a poet who works in the vernacular, like Mohammed Ben Alzib, who has spent 15 years in prison because of a sensational poem about the Tunisian revolution; or the poet might be a young girl like Ayat al-Ghermezi who was imprisoned for a year in Bahrain because of the “Dawwar” poems (the Pearl Roundabout, where the protests broke out in the February, 2011 revolution). Then there is the tale of the Saudi poet, Adel Lobad, nicknamed “Poet of the Revolution”, who was detained in 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

Lobad

Adel Lobad

Lobad’s latest arrest was his fourth, but his prison saga started a few decades back when he joined the “Vanguard Messengers Movement”, a “Shiite Movement” , many of whose members ended up in Syria before King Fahd “pardoned” them. Lobad was one of those who came back, but the Qatif demonstrations in 2011 and the arrest of Nimr al-Nimr brought Lobad back to his place as the “Movement Poet”. The Saudi authorities sentenced him to “five years for information crimes, three years for passport forgery – 30 years ago – and five years of back-to-back penalties”.

The Immigrant and the Sin of Poetry

In January of 2015, another poet – one who had not participated in demonstrations or badmouthed a ruler – was arrested. His name is Ashraf Fayadh. He is a Palestinian who moved his family to live in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago. His arrest garnered some outcry at the beginning, but the majority were silenced by fear of being charged with atheism, a charge Fayadh was facing. A reader filed a complaint against the poet, accusing him of spreading atheism through his book, “Instructions Within”, which had been published in 2008 by Dar Alfarabi. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was behind the imprisonment this time, not the Security Service or Intelligence Service. They interrogated him and talked to him about Islam; they asked him about his long hair and his photos on the internet with his female colleagues, artists and authors. The charge had nothing to do with the text, but with its author who was full of pride at the time because of his recent participation in the Venice Biennale, and he had just organized an exhibit for young artists.

After his arrest, Fayadh’s father spoke to some media outlets in an attempt to explain his son’s situation. He said that “a citizen quarreled with [his] son and filed these spiteful charges, demonstrating the morality of a barbarian, even if the charges would have been dismissed.” More than a year passed after Fayadh’s arrest, and the charges against him diversified shifted, and the date set for his trial changed with the judges assigned to his case. There is nothing left to see now but the interpretation of a reader who does not yet believe in the author’s death.

Source: http://raseef22.com/politics/2015/10/04/poets-in-prison-in-the-gulf/
Copyright ©: 2015 – Raseef 22

[translated] The Press and Despotism on the Anniversary of Samir Kassir’s Assassination

By Tammam Hanaydi

On this date ten years ago at 10:45 AM, explosives planted beneath a car in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut exploded, taking the life of the car’s owner, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian journalist and author, Samir Kassir.

It was part of a series of political assassinations throughout Lebanon. If those assassinations specifically targeted politicians and journalists, bringing to mind images from the civil war, they also gave journalists back some of their importance, something they thought they had lost since the Arab states fell under the power of the “exclusive leader”.

As a matter of principle, dictatorships and telling the truth are not compatible. A dictator cannot admit his mistakes and cannot tolerate people who hold differing opinions. If we wanted to find some evidence to back this up, we can step back to the twentieth century. We find a perfectly clear example of the reality of the struggle between despotism and the truth in the events of May 6, 1916. On the orders of Jamal Pasha “the Butcher”, hangman’s nooses throughout Damascus and Beirut played host to a number of politicians, authors, journalists, and poets who had expressed their opposition to Ottoman occupation. This event led to both countries marking the date as Martyrs’ Day, remembered to this day.

There is no end to proof of this struggle in Lebanon. Following its independence, at 1:00 AM on May 8, 1958, an armed man entered the office of Nasib al-Matni, shot and killed him. Al-Matni was the Editor-in-Chief and owner of The Telegraph at that time and had spent years as a voice of dissent against the authorities, since the days of President Bechara El Khoury who had been forced to step down by public opinion in the year after a three-day general strike in response to Al-Matni’s trial in 1952. Al-Matni held to his chosen path. He stood firmly against President Camille Chamoun until he was assassinated, and that assassination, attributed to Chamoun’s supporters, triggered the 1958 revolution in Lebanon.

On May 16, 1966, another prominent journalist’s pen was silenced forever; Kamel Mroueh, who had started the Al Hayat newspaper in a room at the Annahar newspaper building. Mroueh was a prominent journalist in his time, considered one of the most courageous. These epitaphs may have come to him because of the title he chose for his column in Al-Hayat: “Have your say and go”. In addition to Al-Hayat, Mroueh founded the Daily Star and Beyrouth-Matin. He was also part of the movement to breathe new life into the work of journalists; he was an innovator in writing a brief opening editorial. Mroueh continued to press for the publication of truth in the age of Nasserism, when, though many have debated the appropriateness of political choices being made, the environment was nothing short of an “age of state police”. A young Nasserite called Adnan Soltani walked into Mroueh’s office and assassinated him.

The Lebanese Civil War followed, bringing this clash with it, and a new list of journalists as targets. At the forefront of these writers were Selim Lawzi and Riad Taha. Selim Lawzi was assassinated on March 4, 1980. He had been known for his opposition to the Syrian regime after it had occupied Lebanon. Lawzi was the founder of Al-Hawadess Newspaper, though he started out working as a writer for radio serials and the Near East radio broadcast in 1944. Later he worked for a magazine called Roza Al-Youssef in Egypt. He also worked as a correspondent for two other magazines, Al-Musawar and Elkawakeb. Lawzi moved to London during the civil war in order to escape repeated threats to himself and his family. Then he decided to go back to Lebanon in order to help support his mother. He was kidnapped on the airport road, and his body was found a few days later, horribly disfigured.

On July 23 of that same year, it was Riad Taha’s turn; gunmen fired dozens of rounds into his car in Beirut. At the time of his death he was the president of the Lebanese Journalists Union. Riad Taha was a prominent journalist for Asharq al-Awsat. He founded a number of media organizations, like Akhbar al-‘Aalam, Al-Bilad, and Al-Kifah. He was the first to set up an official Arabic news agency, the Orient News Agency. Taha was one of the voices calling for moderation and for people to set aside their differences. He was known for holding reconciliation summits for the different parties in conflict during the war in Lebanon; it was for this reason many believe he was killed.

The war in Lebanon finally came to an end, but the struggle between the press and party power – the gangs – is eternal. Assassination once again took center stage in 2005. It started with Samir Kassir, author of brash and daring articles. His articles, along with the pivotal role he played in the creation of the Intifada of Independence (also called the Cedar Revolution), were the main reason his life was taken in such a barbaric way. But Kassir was not the last; on December 12, 2005, journalist Gebran Tueni was assassinated by a car bomb as he was driving through Mkalles.

Tueni was one of the most important names to stand in opposition to the Syria’s “Era of Heredity” over Lebanon. He was the scion of a family with proud ties to the press. Gebran, his grandfather, established one of the largest Arabic newspapers, Annahar, and was a famous writer in his time. His father, Ghassan Tueni, following his father’s example, established himself as a journalist, a politician, and parliamentarian. One of the unusual points that might be worth mentioning is that Annahar stood in the gap between East and West Beirut during the civil war, in a position that seemed to confirm the neutral role that the press plays in the world. Ghassan Tueni confirmed this when he expressed his support for his son Gebran by calling for “spite to be buried with [his] son”.

The media has not been spared from being targeted in Lebanon or anywhere else, even if some of its professional journalists have been rescued from attempts to assassinate or kidnap them. Today, remembering the assassination of Samir Kassir, the situation is no different in the struggle burning between those who hold the torch of truth and those who walk in the darkness of despotism.

[H/T Raseef22 http://raseef22.com/life/2015/06/03/in-memory-of-samir-kassir-journalism-and-tyranny/%5D

How much do Arabs read, and what do they read?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated April 23rd as World Book Day. Raseef22 is taking this occasion to reexamine the numbers that are so telling about the status of reading in the Arab World today.

How much do Arabs read?

According to the 2003 “Human Development Report” issued by UNESCO, an average Arab reads far less than one book; it takes 80 people combined to complete one book in a year. In comparison, an average European reads 35 books per year, and an Israeli reads 40.

The 2011 Report on Cultural Development issued by the Arab Thought Foundation stated that Arabs read for an average of six minutes per year, while Europeans read 200 hours annually.

The numbers vary from one report to another concerning the amount of reading in the Arab world. A 2008 report prepared by Synovate, a multinational market research firm, said that Egyptians and Moroccans spend 40 minutes per day reading newspapers and magazines, compared to 35 minutes in Tunisia, 34 minutes in Saudi Arabia, and 31 minutes in Lebanon. Concerning reading books, the Lebanese spend 588 minutes reading per month compared to 540 minutes in Egypt, 506 minutes in Morocco, and 378 minutes in Saudi Arabia. These numbers reflect a more positive situation than those reported previously. The difference is that the latter set of numbers includes reading the Qur’an. The earlier numbers only count reading literature and disregard reading newspapers, magazines, textbooks, files and reports for work, and books in the entertainment category.

How many books to Arabs produce?

The UNESCO report concludes that the Arab world translates 1/5 of the books translated by the small nation of Greece. Nearly 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic between the end of Al-Ma’mun’s rule (813-833 a.d.) in the Abbasid Caliphate and the current age. This number is equal to the number of books translated by Spain in a single year.

In the first five years of the 1980s 4.4 books were translated for every million Arabs (less than one book per million Arabs per year). In Hungary, the number was 519 books per million; in Spain it was 920 books per million.

Why?

The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) released a statement reporting that the illiteracy rate in the Arab world is 19.73%, with a huge disparity between men and women; women make up 60.60% of the illiterate population. If we add to this the fact that millions of Arabs live in poverty, and are concerned only with meeting their primary needs and not with purchasing books, some of the factors in the full picture become clearer.

Moreover, there is an idea that connects the desire to read with the nature of the political system in place. It is said that where liberty prospers, the number of readers increases. In democratic societies, the individual citizen is seen as an important factor in public life. So, even if it is only a small amount, individuals care about cultural and political output. That is why the numbers about reading in the age in which political ideology prospered among the educated in the Arab World were far greater than those today. And now, because most Arabs have handed their futures over to fate and feel that participation in the public arena is futile, the concern for reading has regressed.

I translated this article from http://raseef22.com/culture/2015/04/23/reading-habits-in-the-arab-world/

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To Translate, It’s Not Enough To Understand a Language, ‘One Needs To Feel It’

I wish I could have attended this in person!

Arabic Literature (in English)

A panel made up of an Arabist, a specialist in modern Arabic Literature, and an author discussed the aspects of translations that delight and nettle them at the Seventh Emirates Airline Literature Festival, which took place at the beginning of this month:

By Sawad Hussain

Photo credit: Sawad Hussein. Photo credit: Sawad Hussain.

Translation from any language into another is a tall order, each having its own cultural references and local idioms. But translation from Arabic is another story altogether: one-sentence paragraphs; subjects separated from their verbs by lines on end; colloquial Arabic, from any possible number of countries, mixed in with Modern Standard; the tense being a mood rather than actually stated throughout the text; and the list goes on.…

As such, it wasn’t surprising that the Seventh Emirates Airline Literature Festival dedicated a session to unravelling “The Sticky Arts of Translation and Interpretation.” Though Arabic wasn’t mentioned explicitly in the title, the session primarily…

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‘Dictionary of the Revolution’: Defining Words in Flux

What an amazing project!

Arabic Literature (in English)

On January 31st, A Dictionary of the Revolution launched a kickstarter to boost the project toward its final phase:

dictionary_revolutionThis fund-raising campaign is focused on building the dictionary a digital text and sound archive for the material that Amira Hanafi and her team have collected in the past year. Through one-on-one interviews, leaping off from particular hot-button words, “A Dictionary of the Revolution makes space for viewpoints that are no longer represented in the media or in the Egyptian public. The book and archive preserve the memory of a moment in Egyptian history when many voices could be heard.”

Open to the public, Hanafi writes, the Dictionary archive “could be used for research, as the basis for other projects, or just exist for posterity: so we don’t forget the uprising in Egypt as time passes and things change.”

The campaign’s minimum goal is $2,500, and it’s already more than halfway there.

Dictionarist…

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Interview with Ehab Abdelmawla

Ehab Abdelmawla has written a few books now, the first of which is اليعسوب, The Dragonfly. Here is the summary from the dust jacket:

Date: 2071

Location: The United Southern Arab States (Egypt, Sudan, and Nubia), Eastern Desert Sector

The World: Women, men, and… Dragonflies

It is a scary new world with different class separations, under the control of a harsh and unforgiving Queen. She has a hatred of men and everything to do with Y chromosome. She is even working to eliminate them completely through an insane program of genetic manipulation. She has placed women at the forefront, making high-level positions, university education, and prestigious jobs available only to them, giving them preferred treatment in all things. She has selected the strongest, most handsome, smartest, and most talented of men to be Dragonflies. They are men who owe her absolute allegiance; she has built them self-contained colonies with everything they could want. This leaves nothing for ordinary men but service, hard labor, ignorance and poverty.

Seif is a dragonfly who spent 14 years living in the Mother Colony, which directly reports to the Queen’s Palace. He finds himself on a highway on the border of Aswan. He does not recall how he came to be at this place, nor where he is, but he knows one fact: He does not want to go back to the colony, where all of his wants are fulfilled. He does not want to be a dragonfly, with all of the advantages available to a man in that nightmare world and its frightening events. Instead, he would like to become an ordinary man with nothing save poverty, ignorance and hard work.

The punishment for insurgency was clear, no other choice was given: life in detention at the Waterfalls Prison, or a visit to the Submission Proclamation Room after five years.

In the Colonial prison, Seif meets a group of men who have set their sights on achieving two goals: first, escape from that hellish prison. Second: eliminate the queen and bring things back to normal: Men and women, and nothing else.

I’m currently reading The Dragonfly. I’ll post a full review when I finish, and with the author’s permission I may provide the introduction and the first chapter or two in English… I will probably translate at least one of his works. I have long thought that the English-speaking world could benefit from seeing (and reading) more SFF written by authors who come from completely different cultures.

What follows is my translation of an interview Al-Seyassah conducted with Ehab.

enjoy!

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Ehab Abdelmawla: The “Pay to Publish” principle has brought us to this state of chaos

Cairo – Amal Ziyadah

A novelist whose travels among several European countries have left a deep impression on him dreams of many things for his country, and he is working hard to achieve them. With his desire for enlightenment, to show the opposing viewpoint, and to discuss issues in the open, he refuses all forms of censorship. He has released the novel “The Dragonfly”, in which he discusses things that have been kept silent, as well as a number of national and international issues.

Al-Seyassah met with author Ehab Abdelmawla to talk about the novel and its particulars. Abdelmawla spoke about the “fatal trinity”; dangerous to any who try to address them, and he criticized publishers that are solely concerned with making a profit at the expense of the quality, and his personal artistic and cultural message.

AS:                Why did you decide to concentrate on the lives of the Nubians in Egypt in The Dragonfly, despite their role in people’s imagination?

EA:                The primary, overarching plotline in the novel is concerned with equality and the dispensation of justice and rights. This is because how people understand duty is the real path to national progress. Any kind of segregation, whether based on gender – male vs. female – or denying people’s rights because they are minorities, is completely unacceptable. In the long run, human beings must be protected regardless of gender, color, religion, or race. The worst thing one of these people will experience is the feeling of oppression, making them lose confidence in the justice system. When that collapses, all other systems collapse. If a person is stripped of their rights, if he or she is repressed and loses the ability to produce, they lose their humanity and become animals for others to prey upon.

AS:                You have dedicated a lot of space in your novel to the matter of persecution of women, why?

EA:                There isn’t enough space for me to respond to the issue of persecution of women and restrictions on their rights in society after the appearance of the so-called “State of the Caliphate”. I did dedicate some space to the matter in the introduction to this novel. I will only refer to the last part of the introduction; it might answer the question. I wrote, “I do not wish to dispute the rights Islam has provided to women. I will be satisfied with a single point. In the Holy Qur’an there is a full Surah (chapter) called An-Nisaa’ (Women). Is it mere chance that the greatest expressions of justice in the world and throughout history are found in that very chapter? “Believers, stand firm for justice. Bear witness for God, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, or your relatives, whether rich or poor. God is more worthy than both. Do not follow desire that you may be just. If you dissemble or refuse to speak, God is ever aware of what you do.””

A real issue

AS:                As an engineer, how were you able to expose real issues in your sci-fi creation?

EA:                It was inevitable for real issues to come up when dealing with issues in science fiction; novels reflect reality. I cannot stop short of talking about segregation or fall into that trap by limiting myself to one color within a single novel. Our lives contain all of reality: romance, imagination, terror, action, comedy, tragedy… my novel no less so. It cannot be restricted to one category. Some readers have made comments like this, and it pleases me.

AS:                If we went with you back to the beginning, when you started writing, what would that look like?

EA:                It sprang from my love of the Arabic language. The Holy Qur’an was the first book I read, and I was deeply affected by it. I learned Arabic from the Qur’an. My passion for the art of fiction in literature came from the writings of Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and others.

AS:                Is there a cap or any limits to freedom in creativity?

EA:                Some try to create limits by trying to stay away from the trinity of religion, sex, and politics, especially in Egypt and the Arab world. In Western countries, there are no hard lines that should not be crossed; therefore, whether or not this trinity is addressed is based on a given society and the controls that rule it.

AS:                Is what’s right for the West right for us?

EA:                It would not be appropriate for an author to write a children’s book for the Islamic world about Mark playing with a pig in its pen, for example, if the target audience was in an Islamic country with Eastern traditions. The author would replace the pig with a different animal, like a rabbit. That is one aspect. On the other hand, we have to delineate two types of authors. The first type operates from an unlimited vision, the second has a specific plan and he works within the scope of that plan.

AS:                What is the difference between the two?

EA:                The first type of author’s work does not have a specific agenda driving it; the work can talk about anything: sex, homosexuality, drugs, or alcohol in order to attract attention. He goes against the flow, or courts a specific subset of readers in order to increase sales in a world with decreasing education and young people who do not have good Arabic and do not understand the teachings of their religion – other than the grace of the Lord. These people are contributing to the collapse of a fundamentally worn out system, one they live in, for the prospect of profits.

AS:                Have you read something like that?

EA:                Yes, from a young author. In the first few pages of his novel, he described, in mind-numbing detail, an erotic scene between an eager fun-seeker and a beautiful girl. Because of this, I did not finish reading the novel. I don’t care to read this kind of writing. Unfortunately, most – but not all – novels that have gained prominence and gotten famous in the last decade are drenched in this kind of thing, so everyone believes that it is the path to fame and success in the Arab world. This kind of thing is wrongly called art and creativity. Even so, I have seen a certain subset standing up to change this prevailing formula. They have to pay the price, though, in order to elevate people’s taste and to fix what has been corrupted by others.

AS:                What about the other sort of authors?

EA:                Those authors have a vision and a goal in mind. They approach the “fatal trinity” in order to achieve a specific goal. An author might want to tear down something held sacred or sacrosanct, for example, and this goal is clear throughout his work. Only the audience has the right to judge him, to accept or reject his work. At the same time, any author who shows people the error of their ways by examining the issue must also provide the opposing view in order to give people the same freedom God gave them at creation, to choose between good and evil.

Desire for the Forbidden

AS:                Do you support censorship?

EA:                I emphatically oppose censorship in all its forms. I am against the prohibition of things that lure many under the name of “desire for the forbidden”. I stand on the side of enlightenment, of clear thinking, of showing the opposing viewpoint, and argumentation.

AS:                You have visited many European nations; what have you seen there that you would like to bring to Egypt?

EA:                Places are like people. They each have their own personalities and distinguishing features. Just as you might meet a person who affects your life, a place can affect you the same way. There are things I have seen in Egypt that I would love to see in other countries, and vice-versa. Perfection has not come to the world yet, and it isn’t going to. If we look at Egypt, it is a developing country. There is a lot left to do before it can go from developing to “advanced”, but the one thing that I would like to see in the near future would be more education and a reduction in the number of people who are illiterate. Education the key to everything. We need citizens who read and know the value of books. It is sad and shameful devices like the Amazon Kindle, though it supports 33 other languages, including low density languages like Afrikaans, does not support Arabic. The prevailing impression is that Arabs do not read.

AS:                What are the biggest problems authors face?

EA:                In short: publishing and distribution companies. I am lucky to be working with a publishing house that wants to change how most of the publishing world operates: the “pay to publish” principle. This has brought us to a state of “literary chaos”. There are so many titles that are not fit to print out there that the sanctity of books is adversely impacted. People lose confidence in the content of books, and they waste their money.

AS:                How has your publisher changed this concept?

EA:                The founders know that the problem is three-dimensional: the relationship between author and the publisher, the relationship between the publisher and the distributor and bookstores, and finally the attempt to get the author’s name known through major distributors. Based on this outlook, the publisher decided to dive in to this swamp in order to change it. I have confidence in them, and I have confidence in their ability to change this situation.

Structural Division

AS:                What does your writing ritual look like?

EA:                I could not call it a ritual, it is more like a work system. I may have been fortunate in that I was attracted to literature at a young age, but at the same time I like science, geography, and history. I studied engineering. All of this has left its traces on how I work when writing a novel. I start with a working outline from top to bottom that creates structural divisions between every chapter of the novel.

AS:                What is the funniest comment you have received?

EA:                It was a hashtag from a fan on the page: #WeAreAllAbdelmawla.

AS:                What is your most recent writing project?

EA:                I am working on a novel that is nearly complete called “Obscurantism”. In this book, I address the issue of how things that obscure reality in the modern age are attractive, and that they will drag us all into the abyss if we do not change. I chose this title as shorthand to cover the concept of the confusion, disordered thinking, and the randomness of the decisions we all suffer from.

AS:                Will you put out sequel to “The Dragonfly”?

EA:                Yes, I’m writing a sequel to the book, as well as a second and third book for the “Mars Trilogy”; 1, No Return; 2, Possibilities; 3, Ages.

AS:                What message would you like to give the readers?

EA:                I do not need to put it explicitly. Anyone who reads my work will understand that my message lies within the same scope as the various issues in the books and how they are addressed between the covers of a single literary project; a hidden thread binds them all – the one direction I hope we will all go together. But let’s leave that to the reader.