Egyptian novelist Nasser Iraq reveals new COVID-19 themed plot before lit fest talk
DUBAI: The UAE’s Emirates Airline Literature of Festival is presenting a packed program for its final weekend. Among the guest speakers that are hosting workshops during the event is Egyptian novelist and writer Nasser Iraq, who spoke to Arab News before the session and unveiled the plot of his next novel.
During his session on Friday, titled “Create Your Place,” the author will share his techniques for describing and developing a sense of place in novels to enhance the power of writing.
When speaking to Arab News, Iraq said: “There isn’t a novel that revolves around empty space, it has to happen in a specific setting. This place can be a city, an apartment, a villa, a train, a narrow street or whatever the place is; (the workshop will explain) how I can use this place to develop the novel I am writing.”
Iraq explained the importance of a setting by referring to the novel “The Harafish” by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz, who is a renowned Egyptian author.
“This novel covers a time frame of around 300 years and revolves around one street. Only one street. Naguib Mahfouz didn’t even mention the name of the street. He was able to make this one street a summary of the world because of his great talent in describing the details,” said the Dubai-based writer.
Fast forward to the current day and it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed the creativity of artists around the world to shine through.
“Crises explode the creative energy,” the writer said. For Iraq, he used this time to write a novel about coronavirus.
The book, that is expected to launch in March, tells the story of a married couple stuck at home because of the virus.
“Great pain produces great creativity — if it lands in the hands of a good writer,” he said.
His tip to young writers is to read a lot. “Anyone who wants to write a novel has to have read a lot of books in various topics like film, history, geography, philosophy, religion… they also have to read novels by renowned authors like Charles Dickens, Graham Greene, Naguib Mahfouz, and more.”
Iraq has so far published 12 novels, including “The Unemployed” which was shortlisted for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2021.
His novel “Azbakeya” won the Katara Grand Prize for an Arabic Novel in 2016 and is being translated into five languages, including English and French.