Like a wound that does not heal, a love that does not wither, and an unfinished poem, the writer Habib Abd al-Rab Soruri is still living the ordeal of his country, Yemen, with all his might, and the fragrant incense, perfumes and spices accompany him, as he left his face and pen since he left in the late seventies of the last century for France.
Therefore, it is not surprising that most of his books bear the traces of this bleeding wound and the echo of this unfading love and the rhythm of the poem of Happy Yemen, whose rhymes and seas turned into a sad song due to the violence, destruction and war that has existed for years.
From his first novel, "The Betrayed Queen", which takes place in the seventies of the twentieth century in southern Yemen, to "Grandson of Sinbad", which takes place in the war-stricken Great Yemen, passing through "Damlan", "The Bird of Desolation", and "Daughter of Suslov", which is haunted by the worries of turning points. A timeline in the life of Yemen, and up to his stories "Horror Whispers from the Kingdom of the Dead" and his intellectual books "About Yemen.. What appeared from it and what was hidden" and "There is no imam but the mind", all paths lead to Yemen engraved as a tattoo on the heart and an eternal amulet for the soul.
Only the compass of nostalgia and memory takes us to the pastures of early childhood in the Sheikh Othman neighborhood and the city of Aden, where Soruri first saw the light on August 15, 1956, and since his youth - under the influence of his father - he has frequented the hymns of the wise male and books of jurisprudence, interpretation, mysticism, literature and poetry.
The novel "Sinbad's Grandson" by Yemeni novelist Habib Abd al-Rab Soruri (Al Jazeera)
Despite his scientific specialization and his work as a professor of computer science at the Faculty of Applied Sciences in Rouen, France, Soroury is considered a distinguished novelist and writer with his rich narrative and intellectual blog that he accumulated over decades.
His novel "The Daughter of Suslov" was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015, while his ninth novel "Inspiration" won the "Katara" prize in 2019.
And about his tenth novel, "The Island of the Mutaffifen", which was recently published by the Mediterranean Publications, Al Jazeera Net had this dialogue with Habib Abdul Rab Soruri, who delved into the details of this novel and the relationship of contemporary man with rapid technological transformations. So to the conversation:
Your new novel, "The Island of the Muftifin", attempts to investigate our contemporary world and evoke its shocking dystopian reality through a winged island and an imagined city. What is the line between reality and fiction in this novel?
What are the artistic symbolic dimensions of this winged fantasy work?
Since the nineties of the last century, the stark contrast between the two poles of the world's rich and poor and between the highly developed and very late levels of life of its peoples has increased, and - at the same time - the engagement of all within the framework of a fierce globalization that has a backbone - the alliance of giants of financial and technology forces - leads all Movements of the world and its dwellings.
The fringes and poles of global contrast live together in my novel, in the neighborhoods of one city: Atlas, the symbol of this intertwined world under one leadership, disappears on an island that deservesly bears its name: the island of Al-Mutaffifin.
My choice of novelist is completely different from the global proactive novels that often revolve in the countries of the wealthy, in a planet that seems to be completely devoid of our Arab peoples afflicted by poverty, and also different from the local novels that are confined to Arab concern as if we live isolated from the rest of the world.
In two words: The imagination in the two novels of Ibn Janat, Our Contemporary Global Reality, represents an abstraction and a free narrative tracing of its horizons, in the near future future.
The novel contains several fundamental and philosophical questions, including this question: Where is humanity heading in today’s world, the world of fragmentation and wars of self-annihilation, the world of refugees and those fleeing death, injustice, pandemics and electronic censorship, what is your answer to this big problematic question?
The whole novel is a narrative attempt to delve into this major fundamental problem. Of course, its goal is not to predict the future and present it as a series of events followed by a "cup reader" as much as it seeks implicitly through the plot of the novel, its tools, and the concerns of its invalidation to explode thousands of questions about the future, and to narrate and broadcast the writer's fears about his upcoming features. , in the light of the present movement and its trends.
Perhaps it tacitly condemns the neoliberalism that directs the world for its arrogant transgressions of borders, or what the Greeks call “hybris” in many areas, especially at the environmental level, which led to a catastrophic imbalance that threatens the present and future of the planet, and perhaps it also warns of dangers that I see inevitably coming.
To what extent did you try in this novel to invest knowledge and use it to anticipate much of what is to come in the field of science and technology, especially electronic censorship and espionage?
Your question is valid. One of the main concerns of this novel is to recount the repercussions of the deviations of digital technology and its effects on the future of our lives, not only the dire effects of screens on the retina of the human eye, but, most importantly: their role in flattening the human spirit.
The person of the future - as it appears in the novel - is a slumbering being (walking in his sleep), completely subject to the will of technology and screens, in addition to that, electronic espionage is an essential axis in the novel, perhaps it revolves in its entirety around him, as I noticed, “We look at the screen as it is in fact looking at us.” As the novel says, it intrudes us, reads our thoughts.
Since September 11, 2001, there has been an obsession on the island of the Muftifeen. Its obsession with total control over humans through machines. The novel tells this obsession through the diaries of its two protagonists, Zuraika and Farid. The most dangerous name is "omega++".
The novel "The Island of the Muftifin" came as a result of a visit I made to Calais to write a report on the situation of refugees, and the refugee issue was the first motive for writing the novel.
At the end of 2020, the German Festival of Literature suggested to me a visit to the Calais Gabes in the far north of France, where refugees gather secretly to escape across the English Channel towards Britain, in order to write a literary essay on their conditions in a book that appeared in German.
It was in difficult circumstances not without risks: the border between Britain and the world was closed two weeks before “Brexit” due to a new English variant of the Corona virus.
It was a very important experience for the launch of the novel project. These fugitives are the bloody link that connects Alif neighborhood to Ya neighborhood. Tens of thousands die annually by drowning, murder, torture and rape as they embark on the adventure of escape.
The areas of their tragic accumulation are growing and growing in our contemporary world, and they are all located in a special Atlantic neighborhood that is very important in the novel called “The Great Diaspora.”
This is how the novel starts from the narrator's meeting near the Calais forest with the Yemeni and Eritrean secret refugees: Tofran and Hajji.
In the past years, Yemeni writers in the diaspora and exile have emerged as a result of the war in Yemen, such as Ali Al-Maqri Ahmed Al-Zein and you. Is it possible to talk about a wave of Yemeni literature in the diaspora?
What is the peculiarity of this wave and the characteristics of this literature?
There are actually a number of great Yemeni creators living outside Yemen, such as Ali Al-Maqri, Ahmed Zain, Marwan Al-Ghafuri, Ali Muhammad Zaid and others, who produce profusely and with passion. The concept of geographical distance is no longer the same before the developments of technology. We all belong to the Sadr tribe of the great poet Abdullah Al-Baradouni, "Yemenis in exile and exiles in Yemen."
If there are any advantages to the literary production of this tribe, then perhaps it is not more the conditions of freedom and stability, and the opportunities for contact with the other that sometimes generate a more broad and integrated view of the world’s concerns, as happened to Tifran in the novel as well.
In your opinion, is the experience of exile necessary for every writer and creator to develop and deepen his experience and his blog?
What technical additions did you get from exile and exile?
I do not consider - in fact - that I live in exile, because I live my life in real freedom that I would not have lived in Yemen, which has become an exile for its people, as Al-Baradouni said, and I live my Arab and Yemeni culture in an integrated interaction with the world and its cultures.
The most important additions to this geographical container - which I called alienation - are the culture of freedom first, bowing before the law, and the link between competence and merit only.
I came to this country without a word in French, was illiterate in the "modern mathematics" I chose for my university studies, and in less than 15 years I became a university professor.
These encouraging conditions allowed me to return to my first passion with great enthusiasm: literature, and France is a fertile climate for that, as you know, is one of the most important hotbeds of art, literature, thought and enlightenment, and is the destination of many of the world's creators.
I follow daily and read the most important new literary and intellectual productions, and this will probably affect the expansion of the horizons of my writing and culture.
How did the novelist Habib Abd al-Rab Soruri benefit from the computer engineer and mathematician?
Tell us about this ambiguous relationship between literature and mathematics, and the marriage between winged imagination in the sky of ideals and applied science, which is more closely related to reality?
The relationship seems ambiguous only in our Arab culture, where the scientific mentality is almost completely absent.
There is no such confusion in Western culture, which was founded on the achievements of science and its sweeping victory over the Church. The presence of science is great in its literary works, based on its presence at the heart of life, enriching its narrative, philosophical and forward-looking dimensions.
With regard to me, I live this literary-scientific interaction in a profound way, not only for the presence of science in my literary works sometimes, but also because linguistic expressive concerns occupied me in some of my scientific research.
It must not be forgotten that mathematics is a language, programming has thousands of computer languages, and the search for expressive ability in computer languages is one of the goals of artificial intelligence research, and some computer languages and their programming methods also have aesthetics as the aesthetics of some literary methods.
The novel "Revelation" by Yemeni novelist Habib Abd al-Rab Soruri (Al Jazeera)
How do you live the war in Yemen?
What are its psychological and artistic creative effects on you and your pen in the short and long terms?
I live the ordeal of Yemen and its wars with all my heart, the pain squeezes me every day, Yemen accompanies me wherever I go as a wound that does not heal and a love that does not wither.
Perhaps most of my novels are haunted by it, since the "betrayed queen" that takes place in the seventies of the twentieth century in southern Yemen, to "the grandson of Sinbad", which takes place in the Great Yemen plagued by militias and wars, and the coup of the dynastic Imami gang and her deadly "scream" for his people, passing through "Damlan", And "The Bird of Desolation", and "The Daughter of Suslov" haunted by the concerns of some turbulent time turns in the life of Yemen.
In your opinion, has the era of the organic intellectual who defends his ideas to the last end, and now we are living in the era of the "great" intellectual who is content with a small greatness of authority in the form of a small position in exchange for his silence and appeasement?
The intellectual and the authority, what is the relationship today in this globalized and transformed violent global reality?
Perhaps one of the obstacles to our development - as Arabs - is the submissiveness and hypocrisy of the "great" intellectual and the search for his safety in the subordination of tyrants. Selling the pen to the dictator or silence and appeasement is the position of the majority of our intellectuals, while the role of the intellectual is to stick his nose into every small and big thing and to disturb the ruler whoever he is and make him He fears the word of the intellectual, his rejection and resistance.
I realize that the repression of our countries - where freedoms are curbed, oppression, starvation, torture and killing often threaten the life of opponents - explains some silent situations sometimes, but it does not justify the despicable drumming of the ruler and the misery of bowing to him.
Where does imagination begin and where does reality end in your fiction?
We entered your secret writing room, how do you live in the throes of writing and creativity?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” as Einstein said, and whoever possesses the power of imagination in science or literature owns the world, fictional imagination is an expansion of the world in which the novelist turns into a god who makes his universe, that is, he makes his “preserved tablet,” considering the “preserved tablet” in religious mythology the first project a novel.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” as Einstein said, and whoever possesses the power of imagination in science or literature owns the world, fictional fiction is an expansion of the world.
My narrative experience - so to speak - is a continuous attempt to search for the development of activating the faculty of fictional fiction.
I started in “The Betrayed Queen” an experience that resembles a biography, then I moved to fiction in my second novel, “Damlan,” from a cautious premise: fiction is similar to an opposite autobiography, then I began the march towards total imagination with more and more daring steps, then it doubled - as I think - in “The Betrayed Queen.” Mutaffifen Island.Keywords: