“I can’t write in New York or in Cairo.”—Ezzedine Fishere


Ezzedine C. Fishere’s latest novel, Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge, shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2012, has been described as “Godot-esque,” “powerful,” and “unique.” It is a story of Arab–American life, and of a family’s search for home, and the struggle to belong.


This summer we caught up with the acclaimed Egyptian writer, academic, and diplomat, who  currently teaches at Dartmouth College in the US, where he lives.

In his Seven Answers, Fishere spoke about his characters, some of his favorite words, and his approach to life.

What emotion brings out your best writing?

I am not sure. I think tension, feeling over-charged, as if with a burden too heavy to carry inside, coupled with calm outside. I can’t write in noise or even buzzing cities. I can’t write in New York or in Cairo. I can edit there or modify or add paragraphs, but the bulk of the “writing” happens in calmer places.

Do you hide any secrets in your novels that only a few people spot?

Kind of. Not real secrets but clins d’oeil, mostly jokes—but sometimes little stabbings.

How do you select the names of your characters?

It is hard. A name has more to it than just a name; it evokes. I spend too much time on it, and they keep changing until the last minute.

How much of yourself is in your novels?

I like people to think that there is nothing of me in my novels. But there is certainly some, probably more than what I’d admit.

What are some of your favorite words, and why?

I like short words that sum up whole emotions or situations. I think economic words are more elegant and powerful. I think Arabic is burdened with redundancy and hyperbole and therefore I try to go in the opposite direction. One of my favorite Arabic words is al-hura’ (nonsense), simply because it captures a wide range of social interactions and discourses.

If you were writing your autobiography, what would the title be?

All the titles that I could have used are already taken: Out of Place, Sinouhé l’Egyptien, or L’étranger.

What is your life motto?

To have my cup full.



Posted on 28/08/2018 in FICTION General, tagged as Arabic fiction, contemporary, Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge, Ezzedine Fishere, fiction, Hoopoe, John Peate, Seven Answers, translation


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