“Writing a novel about a city, a man, a friendship, a mother, a father, a brother who’s lost his way, rel igion, society, poverty, contempt, death, like writing a novel about youth, exile, hope, sex, the revolution and mourning it, means writing a novel about love. Everything is a pretext, a décor an excuse, to talk about love. Writing, like life, is nurtured by love, burns, quivers with the pain of loving and the fear of not being loved. And yet, in the Muslim and Arab world, love is what we hide the most, as though we were ashamed of it, as though it were a sin, a weakness or a luxury to love and to say it.
I often wonder, is it because we don’t love one another enough? It’s easy for us to want to hide our women. That makes it easier for us to deceive them, to dirty our streets so as not live in them, to torment our daughters by marrying them off against their will and to toughen up our men to be virile, resistant and strong. But strong against whom? Certainly not against themselves, quaking before God, barricaded behind certitudes and unfulfilled fantasies, gnawed at by contradictions and inconsistencies. It is easy to hide love, to betray it by regulating it, by putting it into boxes, by quoting one or 10 verses the better to condemn it. It is easy because true suffering lies elsewhere. Not in this mind-numbing subjugation and collective blindness that surrounds us and turns us into sheep, nor in renunciation, resignation and unthinking submission. Real suffering means saying no, no to everything I am, to everything I was told I am. No to collective violence and medieval demagogy, no to misinterpretations and totalitarian mindsets at the service of a single identity, no sometimes to my family, my religion, my fellow citizens, my friends and my country. No to everything but myself.
It does not matter whether that anger uplifts or crushes me. Continuing to say no and belonging to the world, to the universe, resisting in order to have a choice, subjugating myself to nothing, obeying nothing. Loving myself first to love others better. That is a difficult task, an absurd bet like Camus’ Sisyphus, sometimes even a social suicide. I do not succeed every day, I do not say it every day, but I feel it and I ceaselessly write it, in my head, my womb, my memory, my novels, my screen. No. There. Try. It does an awful lot of good.”