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Writing short stories

4 October 2009

'The short story is a moment of enlightenment. A moment of vision. The story is going to fall on my head like an apple. But the novel... there is a school of thought, and I agree with it, that we do not have to invent novels; we discover them. The novel exists in my heart and in my mind and I must concentrate to get it out. This is not the case with the story. I could get an idea for a story now, while I am looking at your face...

Society is a living organism and you must keep up. That's why I still practise (as a dentist), though only for two days a week. I will never close the clinic. The clinic is my window, I open it to see what is happening in the street. You can't get disconnected from the street, as a writer; that's a common mistake. You can be too easily welcomed every night by the richest people and the most influential. It is very dangerous because it is that relationship with the street that made you successful in the first place.

I'm against presenting literature on an ethnic basis. I am pushed, little by little, to be an Arab writer, but I prefer to think of myself as part of the republic of literature...

A good subject does not make a good novel, but a good novel makes any subject seem interesting.'

Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany in the Observer