Youssef Ziedan: in Conversation

Youssef Ziedan

in Conversation with Mohammad Al Murr

"What can I do with all my pasion when I'm imprisoned in my worries?" Thought provoking much?

Welcome to Day 1 Session 6, International Prize for Arabic Fiction or Arabic Booker Prize, 2009 winner author Youssef Ziedan in Conversation with Mohammad Al Murr.

Do historical novels need research and reading to a great extent?

This is the first thing required. In any time, to write about history, you must try to live, imagine that time. I imagined I lived those scenes. In recent times, the anatomy would be different. To write about history, we go identify history.

Accusations: Instead of making it a history of religion, you made it a historical book.

When I was young, an editor asked me to write an article. I started writing, but I used to feel sad when parts of my articles were removed. I complained with my editor and he asked me to write again and again and keep writing.

In response to my novel, 6 books were wrote. One of which accused me of showing ignorance to history. I go back to what me editor told me: write and write.

What I see as more fruitful is that people won't stop criticising. We are not going to wait for what these people think.

There are various aspects of history. Why would my novel be an accusation when it came 300 years after Coptic Chair? History can be dealt with various angles and we don't wanna be dead or demolished again. I take the freedom provided as to me to write, but I will not cry. I write my novel, I finish my job and move to write another novel. So let them say what they want to say.

Do you think your novel is not a scientific information? Its fiction. Don't you think you should refrain from writing such controversial things for the interest of nation?

We should confront tutorship. I did refrained from shedding lights on topics which conflicts with Sharia. Even the Bishop said, this is balance of power. Our Government banned Da Vinci Code (movie) when the Church requested them to.

Imagine if each region is going to come up with sad reactions, what will we write about?

I wanted to write how Jews left Alexandria because there was misery, but I avoided writing about those adventures. Things that are presented as undiscussable are not even close to history. I was not attacking Coptic Church or any person. Historical awareness covered in Azazil goes beyond this issue.

Kindly explain what part of your novel is historical, what is imagination and what's the reality?

I have not put or created this framework. This is upon the reader to put his imagination to work. Character are real, they existed in history, I just manoeuvred them using some reference.

The text doesn't include anything, The text it a mirror that reflects what you see. You are a reader and you come up with results.

How did you come about to write a novel?

I came to write novel from Sufism. 'When' indicated time, an era and spirits from beyond etc. Capacity of this term explains the power of literature.

A large part of my work are taken from Sufism and this was a natural reaction. Talent also needs other complimentary elements, you will have to read a LOT before writing such work.

About the author:

Youssef Zeidan is a Egypt born author. His academic work was focused on Sufism and other branches of Islamic philosophy and he is director of the Manuscript Centre and Museum affiliated to the Bibliotheca Alexandria. He is now most widely known for his bestselling second novel, Azazil which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the 'Arabic Boooker').