Interview with longlisted author Ibrahim Nasrallah
When did you begin writing The War of the Second Dog and where did the inspiration for it come from?
The idea had been in my mind for seven years and, as I usually do, I had started a file on it, where I wrote down every idea and thought which might be useful. When I write, I always begin with a long period of preparation. I have never written a novel before thinking about it for at least five years. In 2015, I thought about the novel more and more, just as violence and extremism were increasing and becoming part of our everyday Arab lives, and the life of the world. Although the novel doesn’t refer to Da’ash [ISIS] and extremist groups by name, yet it was written about those kinds of environments and also about international brutality. I was preoccupied by the question of human destiny: what would happen if these human tragedies and the arrogant behavior of superpowers towards poor peoples continued? For this reason, the novel is set in the future and is a warning about what could happen.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
Since I am a full-time writer, it did not take long to write – about a year. But as I have indicated, it was the preparation and mental preoccupation with it which took time. I wrote the novel in Amman where I live, but during the writing I felt that Amman was no longer the city I know. It had become just like the one I was writing about. For me, it was a terrifying and worrying state of affairs.
How have readers and critics received it?
I always say: “Don’t be afraid of the reader. Rather, be afraid of trying to please him!” This novel was different from many I have written: it is set in the future and uses fantasy. What pleased me the most was the considered response of readers to the experiment, as well as literary critics who saw in it a literary text which could be read on more than one level, as it had many layers. I also received an offer from a director I like very much, to turn it into an international film.
What is your literary project after this novel?
I was working on a trilogy which I’ve been preparing for since 1990 and is nearly done. It gives an overview of seventy years of Palestinian urban life (on human, cultural and national levels) from the English arrival in Palestine and the First World War until 1991, focusing especially on Christian Palestinians and the cultural and national roles they played. The three novels are linked and separate at the same time: they can be read independently or together, to get the full picture. The first novel (Tank Under the Christmas Tree) is about life in the town of Beit Sahour until the famous civil disobedience at the time of the first Intifada. The second (Light of the Eye) is about the first Palestinian Arab female photographer, daughter of the priest Said Aboud. Her name was Karima Aboud (1893-1940). The third novel (Shadows of the Keys) is about a Palestinian woman thrown out of her village, whose life crosses tragically with that of an Israeli army soldier, at crucial points in Palestinian history.