Interview with longlisted author Belal Fadl
When did you start writing Mother of Mimi and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I started writing the novel in 2005, publishing it in instalments in the Egyptian Al-Dustur newspaper as part of a project called, “the original inhabitants of Egypt”, which focused upon what one might call ‘the other life’ of the Egyptians, those whom no-one cares about, whose stories are untold. Circumstances dictated that I was one of them for years. The idea of the novel came from them. I hoped they would have a chance to read it, but the nature of the problems they experience mean that they don’t have time to be interested in reading novels, even those which are about them.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
I began writing it in 2005 and finished it in 2020. I started it in Cairo and completed it in New York. The reason it took all that time to write was because there was another novel closely attached to it, and it took a delicate surgical operation to separate the two, as our respected teacher, the Egyptian writer Khairy Shalabi would say. I was also preoccupied with the idea of using a special, different language, a blend of the journalistic and dialect, to convey the atmosphere of the novel and the nature of its characters.
How have readers and critics received it?
Readers gave it a wonderful reception, whether in their comments on Goodreads, their personal online pages, or through purchasing it on the Jamalun book buying website and the Neel wa Furat website, where the novel was second on the bestsellers list throughout 2021. As for literary critics and those interested in novels, excellent articles were written by Ahmed al-Fakharani, Maen al-Bayyari, Nashwa Ahmed and Ahmed Nagi, as well as lovely reviews on Facebook by the likes of Ala’ Farghali, Ashraf al-Ashmawi, Khaled Mansour, Ali Adeeb, Ahmed Abdelatif, Mohammed Rajeh and Mohammed Jamal.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
I will finish a book called Before Forgetfulness Comes: Stories from Walks, which tells true-life stories which happened to me during my work in journalism and cinema. After that, I will write the second part of the novel, which will follow the story of the hero in the furnished flats of Cairo. The novel is part of a trilogy called The Furnished Trilogy, in which I am trying to present a picture of life in 1990s Cairo, a life which no-one knows about.