As our final 'Celebrating Syria' event on Sunday 23rd July we had Syria's most celebrated contemporary novelist, Khaled Khalifa, address the audience in Manchester, telling them about his experience of writing under oppression, his perspective on the Syrian Revolution and his projections for the future of Syria.
Khalifa has written extensively for film and television. His most recent novel, No Knives in this City’s Kitchens, published in Cairo in 2013, is about the “price that Syrians have paid under the rule of the Baath party” as headed by President Bashar Al-Assad. It won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.
It took Khalifa 13 years to write his most distinguished novel, In Praise of Hatred, which was published in 2006 and shortlisted for the International Prize of Arabic Fiction reports on the battle between the Syrian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s. Banned from publication in Syria, In Praise of Hatred is a stirring story narrated against the backdrop of real-life events that feel less like history and more like the present, echoing the violence plaguing the Middle East today.
About this novel, Khalifa said “above all, I wrote this novel in defence of the Syrian people and in order to protest against the suffering they have endured as a result of the religious and political dogmas that have tried to negate their ten-thousand-year civilisation”.
“I wish my novel did not have this kind of prophecy. I thought I was writing about the past. I never imagined this past could be repeated by any means, but when the revolution broke out I discovered that the regime did not change at all and is still behaving and using the same tools used in the 80’s but in a wider range, that all the Syrian cities paid its price this time, not only Hama”.
His novels were on sale throughout the 'Celebrating Syria' festival and there was a Q&A session afterwards with the audience.