Interview with longlisted author Zuheir al-Hiti
When did you begin writing Days of Dust and where did the inspiration for it come from? Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
I don't know exactly when I began thinking about the work but in effect I began writing regularly in January 2014 and I was in Berlin all the time. Although I have been living in Germany for 20 years, in Berlin, I still know the alleyways and byways of Baghdad better than those of the city I live in. It's smell is more real to me than the smells of Berlin. If we talk about inspiration, it must come from there. But if I didn't have the freedom which Berlin has generously given me, I would not have been able to achieve anything, either creatively or in life in general.
How have readers and critics received it?
Do you know, when I write a book and feel that I can add nothing more to it, I sense the moment of release as I let it go, and when that happens, the book becomes the property of someone else, whether a reader or critic. This is a complicated matter which I don't want to go into. But I will not deny that I am delighted when a male or female critic whom I respect and esteem writes about the work. This happened when the great critic Farouq Youssef gave it a positive review. I was happy in the first instance because he is an art critic with excellent taste and the basic structure of Days of Dust is built upon works of fine art.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
In the Summer of last year, the moment I held a copy of the book in my hand which the publisher had sent to me, I began to work on implementing the idea of writing another novel which had been developing in my imagination. All that was left for me to do was to find the time and write.