Interview with longlisted author Najwa Binshatwan


When did you begin writing Concerto Qurina Eduardo and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I began writing it during the lockdown which happened during the Corona pandemic. The idea suddenly occurred to me while I was reading about Susan Sontag. It was a habit of mine to find exercises for myself to help with writing, and when I read about her, I found one. Susan Sontag’s son relates that his mother’s final words to him were: “I wanted to tell you…” She then faded away before he could say goodbye, departing this life without telling her son anything. I kept on thinking about what Susan Sontag wanted to say, and didn’t, in her last moments of life. Then I started thinking more widely about the state she was in, and Concerto Qurina Eduardo was born.     

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

The novel was written in 2020-2021. Most of it was written in Rome during the lockdown. After lockdown was lifted and we could move about again, I was able to leave the city and go to the countryside. I went to the south of Italy and wrote the last part of the novel in a remote village, amidst the stunning natural scenery of Sicily.

Do you have writing rituals?

I like to be alone most of the time, far away from people, and to write in the morning as though I was going to work. I like walking after writing because it helps me to think about what I wrote and what I am going to write. I’m not addicted to a particular type of food or drink. If I am in a good mood, I’ll listen to the Italian radio as I write. If my mood is not so good, I’ll write in silence. In the south of Italy, I write in front of the shack where I’m staying, and in Rome, next to the window. I don’t write or read in cafés, libraries or public places. In winter, the writing which is within me prefers to be done in bed.  

What is your next literary project after this novel?

It’s to write the third part of the trilogy which began with Roma Termini and Concerto Qurina Eduardo.