How are living words born from the dead?

This is a question to which we do not have the answer, but we can find it if we journey to the farthest reaches. The game of farthest reaches is not only a journey to new places but, first and foremost, a rediscovery of the place in which we found ourselves suspended, desperately hanging on to its stories.

We don't make the answers: we find them and when the answer is finally written down, we find it resembles the question, because writers, as I see it, are just readers who rewrite the story they have read in the eyes of others. The eyes are the space and the mirrors of writing; all we have to do is discover the alphabet of the eye, in order to reach the y of humanity, which is hidden beneath the shards of time.

I do not believe that writing is an act of despair. On the contrary, it lies beyond despair, when a portal opens onto the darkness that is mixed with shades of light. In this darkness the ink lights up our souls and takes us to a place where we are both witness and agent, where witnessing broadens the horizons of the human situation – defending man's right to live and dream, to rip the veil off taboos and to resist military and religious tyranny.

Arab novelists are right to celebrate the status that the novel holds in contemporary Arab culture, but we should not forget that this status is old and is not the product of a ″prize-based″ moment. That is no reason for pride. On the contrary it calls on us to be humble and to develop the lyricism, musicality and drama of the novel – and to point out that genres of literature and art overlap in a cultural weft capable of withstanding death, tyranny and our petroleum-fuelled moral collapse.

Elias Khoury

© 2016

Translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright

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