By Huzama Habayeb
Hawa is a child of the grinding hardship of a Palestinian refugee camp. She has had to survive the c…Read more
In a wonderful interview with The New Arab last month, Huzama Habayeb, author of Velvet (Hoopoe, 2019), reflects on Palestinian displacement, personal and collective memory, the portrayal of Palestinian women in her novels, and the ethos of her writing.
“The women I know and portray in my novels and stories can be as apolitical as far as they can, indulging in their own personal joys, small victories, unfulfilled lusts, pains, sorrows, aspirations and frustrations, yet, they are, unknowingly and unconsciously, entrenched deeply in the politics of being Palestinian. . .”
In her novel Velvet, for which Habayeb won the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, her main character, Hawwa—one of her “favourite protagonists”—a passionate, resilient, and enterprising woman, struggles to overcome and escape the daily hardships of life in a refugee camp outside Amman, Jordan. Habayeb can relate to Hawwa’s feelings in more ways than one. “Palestinian female narratives can be an extension of me, of my passions, my fears, my dreams and my nightmares. We are all part of one epic narrative, which is still being lived and written.”
When asked to describe the dynamics of language, memory and imagination in Velvet, Habayeb said: “When I write I do not think of words. I see them, I listen to them, and I feel them. They flow inside me in all their shapes, colours and clamours, sweeping through my senses . . . Once I’m finished, I feel drained, while the words and emotions still clatter inside me. I remember when I wrote the last word in Velvet, I dragged myself to bed. I felt exhausted, withered and consumed by utter fatigue. I do feel I write with my body as much as I write with my soul.”
Click here to read the complete interview.