Interview with longlisted author Taleb Al-Refai
When did you begin writing Al-Najdi and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I began writing the novel in the middle of 2015 after I had prepared for it for about a year. My biggest inspiration was the book Sons of Sindbad by Australian mariner, writer and photographer Alan Villiers, who wrote about the Kuwaiti captain and writer Ali Nasser Al-Najdi after he had sailed with him on his boom [a traditional Arabic sailing vessel] Bayan on a trip from December 1939 until June 1940. This led me to research everything related to Al-Najdi’s life, whether it was something that was written by him or his family, or those who wrote about him. After that I began writing which took me about a year.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
Writing the novel took me about a year. I would write in my office during the day and edit at home at night. Of course all this writing and editing happened in my homeland Kuwait.
How have readers and critics received it?
The novel was published in Kuwait by That al-Salasil and it enjoyed a big reception in Kuwait by readers of all ages. A large number of Arab critics also wrote about the novel including: Faisal Darrag, Mohamed El-Abbas, Abdel Dayem El-Salami, AbdelRazek El-Mesbahi, Abdo Wazen, Mounir Ateeba, Ramy Abou Shehab, Shahla Ujayli, Dr. Aly El-Anzy, Barrak Al-Koueit and others.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
I am currently writing a new collection of short stories. As much as I love writing novels, I love writing short stories. That is why I established the Al-Multaqa Prize for the Arab Short Story in collaboration with the American University in Kuwait.