More articles Thursday 27 August 2020 3:45pm
Internationally Best-Selling Palestinian Writer Susan Abulhawa In conversation with Ahdaf Soueif
One of Palestine’s most accomplished and internationally best-selling novelists, Susan Abulhawa, discussed her new novel Against The Loveless World with the prize-winning Egyptian novelist and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif at the Edinburgh International Book Festival Online this afternoon.
Described by Soueif as uncompromising and unapologetic, Against The Loveless World follows the story of a young Palestinian women, brought up as a refugee in Kuwait and made homeless again by the Iraqi invasion. The story follows the trajectory of her life, through Jordan and to Palestine, and is narrated from The Cube, a fully automated isolation prison cell. Abulhawa explained that The Cube was completely imaginary, however she didn’t think it was probably so far away from reality.
Abulhawa said “I don’t really write for an audience. I try to keep a singular loyalty to the characters.” However, she admitted that with this novel, because she wrote it in English for an English-speaking audience in the first instance, she did have to walk a fine line and pay attention to the Western gaze. “I worried about falling into Orientalist traps. It needed to be an honest portrayal, but I did have to contend with that. I wouldn’t have to worry about it if I was writing in Arabic.”
She went on to say that she became very fond of her lead character Nahr, describing her as a feminist who had never heard of the word feminism and the story as one about confronting shame and living without apology. “She’s an underdog, she’s a Palestinian, she’s the daughter of refugees in a world that is quite cruel – it’s cruel to Palestinians and especially cruel to women. But with everything she does she finds a way to triumph in nearly every circumstance.”
The conversation ended on a discussion on the role of love in the book, with Abulhawa wondering why there is only one word for love in English – while in Arabic there are many. “In English there is one tiny word for an emotion that is so varied and so expansive, but we only have one word.”
The Edinburgh International Book Festival Online continues until Monday 31 August and all events are available to watch free of charge through the Book Festival’s website