"Reading is an escape from reality"
Hajer Almosleh is a poet, Aarabic author, copywriter and translator.
What book(s) are you reading now?
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. I discovered Lidia's writing recently and I have this constant, unyielding feeling that I owe her an apology for not knowing of her before! I read Lidia now and hear my own voice, only better. I wrote a poem 25 years ago in Arabic about giving birth to a stillborn baby girl when I was expecting. When I recently found out that Lidia had given birth to a stillborn, I felt like I wrote that poem to her and for her. I must have sensed her grief. I will read Lidia until there's no more of her work to be read, and then will reread her again and again.
I'm also reading Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins and rereading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
What are the books that changed your life and shaped your outlook?
As a child who refused to read children books and wanted what the grownups were reading, Arabian Nights. I must have been 10 when I got my hands on a copy and I couldn't put the volume down. Reading was an escape from reality, from my immediate monotonous surroundings, so I buried my head in the thickest volume I could find and emerged different. I credit Arabian Nights for my unabashed approach to the Arabic language.
What books would you pass onto your kids to read and treasure?
Christopher Hitchens' Letters to a Young Contrarian and I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman by Joumana Haddad.
I would also preface these gifts by encouraging my daughters to question everything and have the courage to disagree, disrupt, and to voice their opinions.
Books that you never tire of reading and re-reading?
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I've read it seven times so far, once for the language, once as a beautiful history of pain, once for the smells, the visuals, the poetry, the story, the names of wind. I am a poet and I read this book as an ode to everything transient as well as to the permanence of the human soul.
In Arabic, I will read anything Mohammad Hussein Alwan writes. Besides his trilogy Saqf Elkefaya, Sophia, and Touq Altahara, his short stories are a lexicon of wealth and a testimony to the beauty of the Arabic language. Alwan weaves his narrative in the most fluid and magical way.
A book you believe every person must pick up at least once?
Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I used to read it to my kids almost every night. I'm not sure if I was reading it to them or to myself. There were times when I sought any excuse to send my kids to their rooms so they would escape into Max's colorful monster friendly world.