The Lebanese war is a very sensitive subject, how did you manage to write about it?
I think I avoided awkwardness through several means: First of all I refrained from naming any country, region, city, party or leader… All the names were fictional… Secondly, I spoke of crises that ended and became a part of history rather than contemporary political matters. As we reached the Taif Agreement, we reached a common and shared vision on these subjects and everyone acknowledged their mistakes… Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I didn’t open wounds and instead focused on our sins through self-criticism, calling at the same time - indirectly - the other party to have a similar self-critical initiative.
How do you think influential people control the youth during war?
Several methods, undoubtedly… And these same means are used in both, war and in peace:
Corruption: They control some young people by offering them a piece of the corruption cake and giving them positions they do not deserve by cronyism, and that is willful submissiveness.
Fueling ethnic chauvinism: These means are used with ignorant people who are so ignorant that they obey the leaders who are implicitly allied with the alleged opponent (the one whom they share the quota cake with) and in the same time deprive them from the crumbs… I think this is the cruelest kind of trickery.
The imposition of a fait accompli: This aspect appears in the case of war more than peace… A group of extremists, no matter how small, can drag the sect and the nation into civil war if it can provoke extremists of the opposite sect. Which puts the silent and peaceful majority of both parties before an inevitable option: Go to war with the party or… Surrender to the opposite group…
The novel's plot is clever and difficult to understand for inexperienced readers. Was it a coincidence that you linked events this way? Or was it intended?
First of all, I don’t believe in a thing called coincidence… But I believe in what the director, David Lynch, says: To write a story, you have to believe that it all exists in the other room… But it doesn’t come to you at once… they are separated like puzzle pieces and you have to put them together… Treat each idea as bait… bait you use to attract the rest of the ideas in the other room and so on until the puzzle is complete… I think that's what happened with me…
How do you remember the civil war?
When you grow up in a civil war, you co-exist with it and it becomes a part of your daily reality… Some of the things I mentioned about Osama were actually about me… It was my hobby to collect empty bullet shells, splinters and rocket remnants during the truce… It was me who used to ask my brother to draw me all types of weapons until I memorized them all. We were a generation who didn’t fear war; we were born from her womb and nursed from her milk. We used to watch the missiles and the rockets as they were falling over our heads the way today’s generation watches fireworks and firecrackers… We recognized the types of rockets depending on the noises they made… Then we grew up and matured and became more cautious, yet we remained certain that this war is permanent and will never end… How can militias voluntarily surrender their weapons? When this truce or the peace agreement hasn’t lasted and its likes have failed in previous years? But the Taif Agreement was reached and it achieved the impossible, and from that day on the difference happened… And from that day fear began… now I panic every time I hear shooting… Once one loses the safety after experiencing both, they lose everything…
Were you affected when writing the novel?
Naturally, I was affected… Writing is a stressful and hard work, especially writing novels… Thus, a writer can’t write a novel without deciding in advance to live alongside the protagonists of the novel and share the good and the bad with them… Many readers think Osama is talking about me… this is not true… I impersonated all the characters of the story, even the females… Even criminals, especially Abi Kifah and the sniper Abi Saqr… I put myself in their place and tried to imagine how their way of thinking or feelings would be… I imagined their internal and external dialogues… I will not exaggerate that I, as a writer, was sometimes surprised by their actions and reactions just as Osama surprised us all by his many transformations throughout the novel… Someone says: You can’t make a reader cry while reading a paragraph of your novel if you didn’t cry while writing it… I think his words are true… I know exactly which parts will affect readers because they have already affected me when I wrote them.
If you can change one thing in the novel, what would it be?
To authors, the novel is… like a child is to his mother… we can’t change or replace it even if there are things we don’t like about it… In this novel there is some direct preaching… But this is due to me targeting Muslims… I wanted to prove that we can talk about love in a sophisticated way, as a response to many of the novels that dealt with it insolently. All I can say is that I’ve learned to reduce the direct preaching in my coming novels. Real literature should be directed to everyone and not just to a particular group.