Interview with Longlisted Author Eissa Nasiri
When did you begin writing The Mosaicist and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I began preparing for the novel in summer 2020, but the idea for it had taken root in my mind long before then. To be exact, during my first visit to the archaeological site of Volubilis. Since the day when I stood within the walls of that city, I knew that its historic monuments were destined to end up in a book – or more precisely, in a novel. When I saw the mosaics of ‘The Four Seasons’, ‘Orpheus Playing to the Animals’, ‘The Clown’ and ‘The Nymphs Kidnap Hylas’, I realised that a strong bond connected me to that delicate beauty in the transitory ruins of Volubilis. Those mosaic floors were the bearers of history, myths and a bygone civilisation. They were so inspiring that I could not ignore their magic and allure. I set out to research, read and explore the history of the city and its mosaics, before working seriously on imagining stories worthy of such a fertile arena.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
The writing of The Mosaicist took more than two and a half years. I wrote it in three places: Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (a town near Volubilis), Meknes and M’Rirt. I finished imagining it in my city of M’Rirt, my birthplace. I used to return to the manuscript from time to time, to make changes and edits, before sending it off for publishing.
Do you have writing rituals?
About rituals… I usually need to be all alone in my house, or in a room in a hotel. I prepare a coffee. I put on music or a soundtrack which suits the atmosphere I am writing about.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
About future projects, I have a manuscript of a novel and am determined to go back and work upon it. Incidentally, it is a manuscript which was nominated for an Arab prize in 2020. At that time, I’d chosen the title ‘Nest of the Phoenix’ for it. I feel that I haven’t given it the time and effort it needs in order for it to reach the level of The Mosaicist. I think the time has come for the dust to be shaken off the draft.