Interview with longlisted author Shahla Ujayli


When did you begin writing Summer with the Enemy and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I began writing at the end of 2016 after a research trip to Germany, when I visited several cities, like Cologne, Kassel and Heidelburg. I took part in several events about literature and exile and also discussed my novel A Sky Close to Our House which was shortlisted in 2016. I saw at first hand refugees’ lives in Germany, both Arabs and those who had left various European countries and settled in Germany after the second world war. There, the first sparks of the novel were ignited and initial ideas formed. I developed these after taking a class in astronomy and another in cinema. All this formed the background to Summer with the Enemy and defined its geography.

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?

Research and writing took about two years, which is an ideal length of time, as far as I am concerned. I wrote it in Amman, where I live.

How have readers and critics received it?

I can say that it has had a warm reception. My readers were waiting for a new work after A Sky Close to Our House, which was reprinted four times. The first edition of Summer with the Enemy was sold out within four months of its publication, despite it being a holiday season, not a season of book fairs. The second edition was printed. Several serious reviews of the novel appeared in the most important literary newspapers and periodicals, and many critical articles focusing on various aspects of the text. There were several discussions of it in book clubs, and nice letters from readers. It seems that many different kinds of people loved the novel, and I thank them all!   

What is your next project after this novel?

I am working on a book of literary criticism about the Arabic novel in the last century.