Syrian novelist Lina Hoyan al-Hassan says, “In travel literature, your pen is held by what you see, live and touch, and imagination is limited to association, you can only escape temporarily, here you are tied to the thread of the place. Bigger and wider, in the novel the horses of imagination tremble on a map that has no boundaries.
The Syrian novelist Lina Hoyan Al-Hassan – winner a few weeks ago of the “Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature” for her book “The Heel of the Fairy” – is working on transcending the castles of fiction writing by knocking on the door of the journey, its artistic elements, its aesthetic horizon, and its adherence to daily reality.
Despite the difference between travel literature and fiction writing in terms of format, Lina Hoyan El-Hassan’s passion is increasing in engaging with the concept of reality aesthetically, and her interest in travel literature in her contemporary imaginations may be based mainly on her family relationship with the concept of place, which occupies a large space in a number of her novels.
The owner of “The Heel of the Fairy” is one of the prominent faces in the Syrian novel, which fed the Arab reader’s conscience with new topics related to the Syrian desert, and made the reader travel deeply in the body of other geographies in which reality is intertwined with imagination.
And if history is a mainstay in her fictional works, this is due exclusively to the position of this local history within the total or comprehensive history, as Lina Hoyan Al-Hassan makes the act of memory a rich path from which stories and tales are reproduced, and weaves among them a narrative project impregnated with historical imagination.
On the occasion of her winning the “Ibn Championship for Travel Literature” award, Al Jazeera Net had this interview with her:
Lina Hoyan Al-Hassan, in connection with your novelist biography, which today has established a different path in the biography of the Arab reader. Do you think that your upbringing in the Syrian desert strongly influenced your novel experience?
The past is the “shines” of memory, a glowing sun that does not set, because of which your whole life may be lit or vice versa, and I am of the first category. A mysterious fateful hand pressed the magic light button. We all know that the Arabs used to raise their children in the deserts, and the place I belong to is the desert that Banu Umayya chose to raise the princes. A little to the west of “My Village”, the Umayyad Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz died, and a little to the east, Rusafa Hisham was standing tall.
Here, Bakr and Taghlib fought each other, in addition to the Roman presence and terrible historical incidents in the region, all of which remained alive in the oral narratives of the people, and this is a “treasure” for the writer. In addition to the diversity of blood and its mixing over the ages, for example, here the Arab tribes mixed with the Circassian tribes that came in two batches over a period of 50 years, and the Ottomans gave them all the line of villages located on the edge of the Levant desert to be in direct confrontation with the Bedouin knights because the Circassians were famous for their splendid equestrianism.
This was also reflected in the blood, so do not be surprised if I am a Bedouin and have a Circassian grandmother! An interesting jumble of stories that I invested in my novel (not the stray bullet that killed Bella).
I do not deny that I acted according to the words of Abdel-Fattah Clitio: The motto of every writer should be: “Make of yourself so that no one can compensate you,” at least I tried, because I am obsessed with “the different” and drive me crazy with “similarity.” Every attempt is a right, and the rest is in Time and the reader.
To what extent is contemporary Syrian history, with its events and biography, a haven for imagination and a locomotive for suggesting a different literary horizon?
The Syrian “contemporary”!? Therefore, it should wade through the pure blood that was shed without mercy or reckoning by all the warring parties in Syria! In front of the word “contemporary,” the writer can be seen as a (witness) to death, but what if he was a forged and claiming witness?! This happened in abundance and always happens… a profitable trade temporarily and a loser in the long run.
I wrote two texts on “The Bloody and Destructive Contemporary”, the novel “The Wolves Do Not Forget”, the journey of burial of my brother who was killed at the beginning of the events and we were held on the farm for 40 days. The text whose writing was an antidote to grief, and the second text is The Heel of the Fairy, which recently won the Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature.
Travel Literature Award
A few weeks ago, I won a scientific award in travel literature for the “Contemporary Journey” section. What is the secret behind your attraction to the worlds of travel literature and your close connection to the imaginative space open to wonder and dream?
This text is an introduction to a group of texts related to places that left the deepest impact. Places are like people who love and hold us. Places are also destinies, and I started from my first destiny from the so-called “Jiftlk Hama”, so I took the path that started from Homs towards Hama along my favorite river “Asi” Mara In Rastan, the historic town hovering on the shoulder of the legendary river, I did not lose sight of the historical history of the places I crossed on my long journey towards my village. The paths have a temptation that I have repeatedly written about. Homs, Talbiseh, Al-Rastan, Hama, Al-Ula, Al-Hamra, where it is said that they took the color of their soil from the blood of Abi Zaid Al-Hilali’s mare, and it is strange that it was a horse-breeding farm for the Ottoman army. Is this a coincidence, for example?: The astonishment of fates.
What flight? What is the novel?
However, how different is your novel from the novelist style in terms of writing and imagination?
In travel literature, your pen is held by what you see, live and touch, and imagination is limited to association, you can only escape temporarily, here you are tied to the thread of place. On the trip you will write your observations. In the novel, however, the matter is profoundly different, with greater and broader freedom. In the novel, the horses of imagination trespass on a boundless map.
In your latest novel, “Antioch and the Kings of the Secret”, you review the biography of Antioch and work to monitor the social life of this city in certain moments in history. Do you think that fictional fiction writing is capable of restoring the linens of historical authorship?
Literature is a colorful peacock feather that at the same time resembles an eye, literature is a magic eye that investigates history, I have no motives other than passion, I am not a committed Sartre, but I walk in the passengers of “Dionysus” who found the most beautiful paintings that represented him, riding the back of a tiger in Antioch, which underwent liquidation Colonial to lose Syria’s most beautiful capitals.
On the borders of Antioch, Zenobia, the queen who had the purely Syrian project, was killed. If she had succeeded, she would have changed the history of all of Syria. There, the Orontes River turned, yielding to the footsteps of a mythical woman named “Tykha” who forced him to end his watery journey and pour into the sea. I could not resist the temptation of this myth that triumphs over women and their abilities. I will definitely be on the side of a woman called the Mother of the Eagles, who changes the course of the novel! It is the biography of women of traumatic change, a woman who does not hurt history itself, and is not reliable.
The role of women
What role do women play in the events of the novel and its specificity as a whole in modern Syrian history?
I chose 3 kings who ruled in secret, mythical beings (Tykha, clan and Bacchus), that is, two queens and a king, and I left the rest of the novel’s members as pawns moved by the games of the kings of predestination. The novel in itself is a biography of three women (Fahriye, Adawiya and Fajr) without neglecting to dig into the credibility of the historical event, and this, in my opinion, gives value to the historical narrative and narration. It was said that he accurately predicted the date of the end of the rule of the Othman family and the death of Sultan Abdul Hamid as well as the killing of the Romanovs in Russia, and he disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
In recent years, there has been a strange travel by novelists towards the historical novel. Do you think that this phenomenon is healthy for contemporary literature and responds more to the present? Or is it related to the emotional tendency towards the concepts of history and reality?
I take the opinion of Jacques Derrida and I agree with him completely: (History is subject to various kinds of lies, there is deception, fraud and slander. The liar is the “man of action” par excellence).
Derrida quotes Hannah Arendt as saying that resorting to lying is one of the necessary and legitimate means of exercising politics and governance. So the historical event and discourse is a spider web, in which authorities, desires, whims and ideas intersect, which must be dismantled. From here, the historical novel takes its sway, authority and legitimacy. Not all writers have the qualifications for this type of writing, because it requires an intense journey of knowledge and daring to extricate the truth from the clutches of political and religious authorities.
I return here to Arendt, who believes that “the processes of perversion cannot continue indefinitely, which means that the history of falsehood is accidental and incidental to the advent of truth.” So why is this fact not a fictional literary fictional achievement that counts on the world of literature?