At the time, my mobility was restricted for health reasons. I was depressed, felt weak and defenceless – and the most dangerous thing: I was close to losing my faith in the importance of literature, because books can′t save human lives.

Strangely, though, that didn′t make me give up reading and writing. Instead, I plunged into it like a woman possessed. I revisited the notes for my novel Jabal al-Zumurrud, which I had almost forgotten by 2011 and also returned to the tales of 1001 Nights.

The obvious reason was the novel I was working on, which is interwoven with the collection of tales; yet without knowing, I was searching deep within for something to restore my faith in literature and lend my existence new meaning.

Egyptian author Mansoura Ez-Eldin (photo: Arian Fariborz)
Chronicler of a revolution: Mansura Ez-Eldin experienced the outbreak of the Egyptian Revolution on 25 January 2011 at first hand, demonstrating almost every day on Tahrir Square in Cairo. In her novels, short stories and essays, this creative and politically courageous newcomer to the Egyptian literature scene remembers the Arabellion on the Nile

Most of the stories from 1001 Nights are a hymn in praise of narrative imagination, capable through their sheer refinement of saving lives, changing fates and breaking evil spells. In Jabal al-Zumurrud, too, regaining a lost story brings the world back into balance and the magic of letters awakens the dead from their ashes.

Disfigured stories

Yet I didn′t want my novel to be a naive hymn to writing, created only to lull my own fears. I wanted to explore the relationship between written and oral stories, starting with the ideas of Derrida and Plato, reflected in the pharaonic myth of the invention of script by the deity Thot. I thought about the mechanics of disfiguring meaning, about the relationship between the original and its adulterated copies – as though I were reading the distorted story of the Egyptian revolution while tracking down the distorted story of Princess Zumurruda in my novel.

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