Interview with longlisted author Youssef Ziedan


When did you begin writing Fardeqan and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I began writing Fardeqan, which is about the life of Avicenna, since I am generally interested in enlightened characters in human history, and would rather write about them than have murderers and those who have shed blood as my heroes!

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

Writing the novel took nearly two years, but in doing so, I relied upon printed and manuscript knowledge and sources which had accumulated in my mind over many years.   

I wrote the drafts of the novel in several places, but the finishing touches were done in Cairo and Alexandria. I divide my time between those two places.

How have readers and critics received it?

Readers were waiting for the novel. At the party when it was launched in Cairo, the publisher said (either joking or in seriousness) that the printing presses of Dar al-Shorouk couldn’t keep up with the demand for my writings, and he mentioned that the first edition of the novel was twenty thousand copies.

What is your next literary project after this novel?

At the moment, I am writing a novel called Hakim, set in the Fatimid period, which brings together the two characters of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah and the polymath Ibn al-Haytham, who is obliged to feign madness to escape from the insanity of Al-Hakim.