Interview with Longlisted Author Rima Bali


When did you begin writing Suleima’s Ring and where did the inspiration for it come from?

In the early part of 2017. In a train station in Toledo, Spain, I noticed a ring with an unusual design lying forgotten on the rim of a washbasin. It seemed to be staring at me like a lost, frightened child, so I asked it about its mother. The answer it gave was the spark which ignited the beginning I had been waiting for, launching my boat into the love story of Selma for Aleppo and Shams al-Din, plumbing the depths of this attachment, which verges on being an incurable disease. Suleima’s Ring was born, but due to the covid 19 crisis and stagnation in the publishing industry, it did not see the light until the end of Summer 2022, when it was published by Dar Tanmia.

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

Lucas, Selma and Shams al-Din lived with me for more than two years, in the beautiful and magical city of Toledo, ‘the city of the three cultures.’ Together, we got lost in its maze of narrow, ancient alleyways, similar to those of Aleppo, and we rested on the bank of the Tagus River. We searched for elusive absolute truths, lit perfumed candles, and finally left our questions in the hands of our friends, the readers.

Do you have writing rituals?

I’m a chaotic writer and don’t abide by strict, fixed timetables. My rituals are very simple: some candles, good music (classical, jazz or blues), and lately in the mornings I’ve begun to love writing in a beautiful, small café I’ve discovered in Madrid. It’s a flower shop as well as a café, and the owners have excellent musical taste and prepare wonderful coffee and Andalusian breakfast.

What is your next literary project after this novel?

My most recent novel, Flute in a Western Orchestra, was published by Dar al-Matbu’at Publishing and Distribution in Beirut, a few months ag