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Eight Days of Creation: IPAF’s Nadwa for Arabic Fiction

Waleed Hashim

Eight writers, eight days. Lots of creation and mentorship. A few weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, five male and three female authors, ranging in age from 24 to 42, and from seven countries across the Arabic world gathered for the third annual Nadwa. Founded in 2009 by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the Nadwa offers a place for eight of the most promising Arab authors to gather and work intensively on a new work of fiction under the mentorship of two established and widely respected authors, and just as importantly, to be encouraged and inspired by each other’s unique talents and perspectives.

Publishing Trendsetter was lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with one of the participants, young novelist Waleed Hashim about his experience of the Nadwa, Arabic multiculturalism, and what it’s like to write your first mystery novel. Many thanks to Nadwa and International Prize for Arabic Fiction administrator Fleur Mantanaro for making this interview possible.


Waleed Hashim, 29 years old

Writer, Attorney-at-Law, Reiki Master

Home Country: Kingdom of Bahrain

Published works:

•           First novel: “لم أكن هناك ” I Wasn’t There, published 1999 by Dar Al-Konooz.  A philosophical novel written in Arabic.

•           Second novel: “مرورا بحياة أخرى” Across Another Life, published 2006 by the Arab House of Press & Publications in conjunction with the Directorate of Culture and Heritage, MOI, Kingdom of Bahrain. Won Bahrain’s prize in the distinguished novels category.

•           Third novel: “رؤى الناظرة من يرمق” Visions Glanced from Yarmuq published June 2009 by Al-Intishar House of Press & Publications in conjunction with the Directorate of Culture and Heritage, MOI, Kingdom of Bahrain.

How would you describe your experience of working in such an
intensely social setting as the Nadwa, especially when writing is often thought of as a solitary art?

The experience of the Nadwa writing workshop defied all of my initial expectations. I began with the belief that it would be a very challenging, intense and uncomfortable experience since neither I nor any of my other colleagues were particularly used to sharing our works and writings at such preliminary stages with others. I had always felt that the more private and solitary the writing is the better the art. Nevertheless, the caliber of the people present made the whole experience a true joy.

From the very beginning all the writers shared this understanding of how intimate this social setting was going to be: how everyone was in effect sharing his or her child in a way. The Nadwa member writers and the instructors Dr. Amir Taj El-Sir & Mrs. Mansoura Ezzedin were kind, supportive and above all else honest and authentic in their opinions and suggestions. I ended up taking much advantage of the whole experience and reading the most out of everyone. It was like having your personal collective group of highly creative and inspired editors determined to support your work into being the best it could be.

How did the multi-national makeup of the group affect conversation and opinion? How did it contribute to your work?

It was a very diverse group of highly creative individuals, and from the very start, there was  much respect for the different styles and genres of writing on the table. The aim was never to change anything substantial in anyone’s work or writing style; it was merely to support all present and challenge them to rise up to their most true creative selves.

We received various different perspectives since the Arab world is vast and varied culturally. This served to further enrich everyone’s writing. We also had a very gentle and kind organizer at the head of our group in Ms. Fleur Montanaro, who set the tone for powerful yet non-intrusive feedback from everyone in our group.

I personally felt the full-fledged benefit of working with such fine writers as I was venturing into a whole new genre of writing. Most of my novels are of the historical fiction genre and I wanted to try something new in the Nadwa by writing a Mystery/Crime novel. Writing the first two chapters of this upcoming novel was a very enjoyable exercise. A refreshing departure from historical fiction and a genre I felt was easier to write, too.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you worked on during the Nadwa?

I worked on the first two chapters of a new crime/mystery novel with some comedic flare to it. The novel is set up with an unlikely national security-related murder taking place in a tailoring house, “Miss Clacklice’s Tailoring House,” in the middle of a large unnamed city. The young women who work for Miss Clacklice are introduced one by one as interesting yet not very intelligent characters. The reader, meanwhile, follows one unnamed worker at the tailoring house, who is working as an undercover agent for an enemy state.

The novel has a working title of “The Weaver of Life” and also deals with the concept that you weave/create your own reality by attracting and manifesting who you are in life, rather than anything you may desperately want.

What would you tell young Anglophone book professionals about what they could gain by working to buy and translate more Arabic literature into English?

Arabic culture is very interesting and deeply rooted. There is something very enchanting about its history and art. The Arabic language I know is one of the richest in the world. I believe that art inspires art, and that collectively artists inspire a better life. I sincerely believe that there can be much gained from sharing inspiration across such diverse cultures… that a more loving, peaceful world can easily start with an understanding of something as pleasurable as each other’s many art forms.

Can you tell Anglophone readers what are some of the most exciting things currently taking place in the world of Arabic literature, especially anything you think is unique?

Young novelists and poets especially are freeing themselves from the classic schools of writing in the Arab world and are being more daring and more adventurous in their writings. Many are encompassing various other cultures in their writings too. In my latest novel, Visions Glanced from Yarmuq, I explore the downfall of a royal family in an imaginary world in which I injected created kingdoms with cultures inspired by various historic Arab/European civilizations.

Many writers are taking their respective genres to the leading edge and challenging themselves further to expand. Particularly in the Arabian Gulf I have noticed a surge of great new talent from Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain well worth the attention of the Anglophone readers.

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