Interview with longlisted author Aziz Mohammed
When did you begin writing The Critical Case of “K” and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I cannot say that the novel started out with a prior plan or intention. I was writing about a particular character or condition in an arbitrary and sporadic way, and it could have ended up as a short story or film script or anything else. Sometime in late 2015 the novel became a likely possibility and to overcome my laziness and moodiness I decided to finish it and submit it to a publishing house before I turn 30. I believe it was a question of commitment more than inspiration. The deadline was what pushed me to go back to working on the novel even at times when I felt I'd had enough of it.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
I wrote it while I was living in Saudi Arabia. It took about a year and a half to complete starting from the end of 2015. The bigger part of the work was the editing. The drafts did not take long but the editing process was the hardest and I would often leave it for weeks then return with new drafts.
How have readers and critics received it?
The first reaction when the novel was finished was from the publisher and it meant a lot to me because I had a preconceived notion about the difficulty of getting a publisher’s attention. My resume was not encouraging, I had only published a short story in a cultural magazine and under a pseudonym. But the people at Dar Tanweer received my novel with great enthusiasm and proceeded to work with me upon my first attempt at contacting them, without any prior acquaintance. I have to thank them for infecting readers with their enthusiasm; copies of the book flew out of book fairs where the Dar Tanweer participated, long before it was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. As for the critics, I have read four or five articles, practically all of which were positive. I say “practically” because I barely understood one of them.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
I have not yet finished a story. I am more inclined toward less dramatic writing in terms of themes and less tense in tone. I am less committed to the plot. I am not the kind of writer who can change his skin, in both the positive and negative sense of changing one’s skin. But perhaps I can shed the limitations imposed upon me by the fear of getting published for the first time. In general, I feel my next work may be connected to its precuser. The temptation to go further with something I thought I was done with is usually what motivates me to continue.