LAHORE: Lebanon-born novelist from France Amin Maalouf says his idea of writing is that everything in history in the past and today has been seen differently in her country of birth (Lebanon) and France. It does not mean one is true and the other is not. Truth can’t be approached unless we have many points of view. To get closer to truth, we need to see at every event from different points of view.

He was talking to journalist Ahmed Rashid in a session, the Past is Another Country, on the last day of the Lahore Literary Festival on Sunday.

Maalouf said what happened in Lebanon in 1976 broke something in him and that something was his country of birth. It was never repaired, he bemoaned, and it affected his writings a lot.

“I never thought I would spend my life away from my country of birth. I thought I would spend my whole life there. I was an eyewitness to the first tragic event of the war. After some months, I had realised something had changed forever. That year I decided to move to Paris.”

One of the first things Amin Maalouf noticed after his move to Paris was the difference between the two worlds, in which he was born and European world. To him, they were poles apart. He said his first book was the Crusade of Arab’s Eyes, written under the same influence.

To the question of his shift from journalism to novel writing, Maalouf said, “I never felt I was shifting from one world to another when I moved from journalism to literature. For me both the activities were a part of the same mindset. I think I have this mindset of watching the world and trying to understand what is happening around me. Sometimes I try to describe the world in precise words and sometimes it makes me imagine stories”.

To a question about his book Samarkand, he said history of that part of the world was full of marvelous events and he had just put it on stage. One of the characters in it was Khayyam, a scientist and wise man. “I discovered his Rubaiyat in many languages and I had a passion for him as a young man. When I began to write I wanted to discover his real life and write about it.”

Talking of another area of his interest, Maalouf said it was the beginning of the 20thcentury when there were movements throughout the world, especially in the Islamic world, that stemmed from one huge event of the war between Japan and Russia in 1905. He said after that the people of the east realised that they could become important in the history of the world and they could win a war and be not just dominated which they could not do in the last few centuries. There were revolutions in Persia, Iran,Ottoman Empire and China.

Speaking about the background of his novel, Ports of Call, Maalouf said the idea of the book was a love story he had learnt about. A friend of his father used to live in Jerusalem in 1948 and he was married to a Jewish woman. After the war broke out, he moved to Lebanon. They had a daughter and separated by new borders. Later they met in Cyprus.

Earlier, Marc Barety, the ambassador of France in Pakistan, introduced Amin Maalouf.

TIES THAT BIND: Journalist and author Huma Qureshi says the house is a feeling of comfort where she can feel safe in the crazy pandemic and her family. For her, home is not a place but a feeling.

She was talking to Amna Rizwan Ali in a session, Ties that Bind, at the LLF on Sunday

Author and editor Nikesh Shukla, the author of Brown Baby, a memoir, said one of the journeys of memoirs was a search of finding a home of his own. “I identified with London and I moved to Bristol nearly a decade back but it never felt like home there.” However, things changed after he got kids in Bristol and then that city became his home. The feelings about his new sense of home was what he was trying to capture in his memoir.

Regarding the feeling of identity while living in the UK, Ms Qureshi said in her early youth, she was conscious she was not a Lahori in the sense her cousins were when they would visit Lahore with her parents. She talked about the fond memories of her parents’ city but London was the city which gave her a sense of home.

Nikesh said there were a bunch of things that he talked about in the book. There was an episode in which an African character said when they went to London they never thought they would die. He talked about his mother who had a temporary feeling for London and his parents longing to go back to their homeland.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2021



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