Interview with longlisted author Hamed al-Nazir
When did you begin writing Two Green Eyes and where did the inspiration for it come from?
The idea came to me in 2015, when the trial of Mariam Yehye began in Khartoum. She was accused of apostasy and condemned to death, before the government withdrew the accusation and released her, due to intense international pressures. Mariam’s case inspired me with the idea of the trial of individual choices and the importance of individual life as opposed to the domination of corporate directions over individual choices, whether coming from the religious, political, social or any other perspective. Through the character of Urfa, I tried to create an alternative imagined life for Mariam Yehye, who – isolated and alone – goes through the hardships of war and faces its darkest and ugliest aspects.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
I began writing it in 2015 and stopped after completing a few chapters, since the imagined life of the character which had inspired me needed a lot of background information. Through Urfa, I tried to create a life which goes through the hardships of war and faces its darkest and ugliest aspects. The war ends tragically and Urfa moves from prisoner-of-war camps to the city of Port Sudan, where she meets a Christian teacher and decides to marry him. Only at this point does the collective memory awaken, which had ignored Urfa during her long ordeal. It decides, on her behalf, who and how she can marry. She is then forced into bitter struggles to defend her right to choose and is accused of apostasy and condemned to death. I finished the novel in Doha at the beginning of 2020.
How have readers and critics received it?
Unfortunately, so far the novel hasn’t been promoted and distributed well, because of the circumstances the corona epidemic has forced upon the world, especially the publishing industry in the Arab world. I hope that being longlisted for the Prize will help increase readership and interest in it.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
I have an idea which I am currently developing and I may start writing in the next few weeks.