Interview with longlisted author Jalal Bargas

05/03/2021

When did you begin writing Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I began writing Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper in the Winter of 2018. The idea for the novel came as I was strolling through downtown Amman, the Jordanian capital, and saw an old house looking as if it was about to fall down. I started staring at passers-by and wondering about their internal houses/their hearts, and how the whole country can be one of the houses of humanity. 

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
It took more than two years to write. At the time I was living in my city, Madaba, but I often visited Amman to experience the places and times which my characters did.

How have readers and critics received it?
The novel was published at the beginning of the corona epidemic and I was afraid that it wouldn’t be read because of the isolation which came as a result of the virus, but it became a bestseller. I was happy that readers and critics gave it a warm welcome. Personally, I think this happened for two reasons: firstly, there is a strong element of reflection and contemplation in the book, which was people’s mood at that point; and secondly, people resorted to reading, to fight the isolation of corona and its psychological effects.   

What is your next literary project after this novel?
I am trying to write a work of fiction with a human subject relevant to the world, set in the historical past, as well as the present and the future. It will lean on the imagination in its approach to reality and will have a hopeful aspect.