Talib Al-Rifai to Al-Rai: The September attacks have nothing to do with the “kidnapping of the beloved”!
– The author creates the character and leaves her freedom of movement in the artwork according to his plans
– “The protagonist” is a realistic character as much as he belongs to reality… and is imaginative and artistic by belonging to it
A distinction must be made between the voice of the narrator and the voice of the author… I am neither a millionaire nor the protagonist of the novel, “Jacob”!
– Jacob is a model of the human personality with its distribution, dispersion and pain, despite being a millionaire and an influential figure
– I have very good and decent relations with a group of family, relatives and friends, all of whom are religious
“The timing that coincided with the release of the novel (The Kidnapping of the Beloved) has nothing to do with the events of 9/11 or the Taliban’s return to rule Afghanistan!
Thus, the response came decisively by writer and novelist Talib Al-Rifai, whether he intended to publish his new novel just two days after the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks (issued on September 13), especially as it targets terrorism and religious extremism, through the personality of the Kuwaiti Mujahid “Ahmed” ».
Al-Rifai explained in an interview with “Al-Rai” that he has “dignified relations with family, relatives and friends, all of whom are religious, and I have a lot of connection and love with them.” He also indicated that he gave up all his financial rights, as well as signing contracts with 14 publishers so that his novel sees the light in all Arab capitals, stressing that “there is no narrator in life to represent anyone, everyone is charged with telling his story, and this is how I write my fiction.”
• Did you intentionally publish your new novel, “The Kidnapping of the Beloved”, just two days after the anniversary of the events of September 11, especially as it targets terrorism and extremism directly?
– There is absolutely no connection between the release of my novel and the anniversary of 9/11. I started writing the novel in 2016 and completed more than half of it, then for some reason I stopped and got busy with other writing matters. My study book: “The Color of Tomorrow… The Arab Intellectual’s Post-Coronavirus Vision.” In the middle of the year 2020, I returned to it to finish writing it on July 17, 2021.
Therefore, there is no relationship between it and the September attacks, nor between it and the return of the Taliban to rule Afghanistan.
• The reader of the novel believes that its writer relied on real events by dealing with the story of a Kuwaiti youth “Ahmed” who drifted behind the extremist current, until the waves threw him to reach the “wasps’ nest” where the extremist groups in Syria, Iraq and Iran, did you weave the events out of reality?
Art is an imaginary reflection of reality, as reality provides a fertile, diverse and fresh raw material for the writer and artist, but the transfer of the realistic story and the realistic scene to art goes through a complex process, and its complexity comes mainly from the fact that the artistic scene is based on the imagination and language of the writer, as much as it is based on the realistic scene.
Therefore, the events of the novel “The Kidnapping of the Beloved,” as much as it is based on a realistic tale, belongs to my imagination and grows based on the movement of its characters. The author creates the character, leaving it free to move in the artwork according to what he planned. For example, the character “Rida”, I did not, in the first writing, have planned its existence, but with the flow of the text, I found it crystallizing and taking its presence and its share in telling the story of the novel, so I responded to it and did not stand in its way or suppress it.
Yes, the story “The Kidnapping of the Beloved” has a root from reality, and it is a well-known, present and circulating root on the map of the Kuwaiti daily event, but its formulation was subject to what the novel requires of imagination, language and artistic vision.
• If we talk about the protagonist of the novel “Jacob”, the Kuwaiti merchant who was honored by the former regime with the “Saddam Medal” for his donation to the Iraqi war effort during the Iran-Iraq war “as mentioned in the novel”, was “Jacob” a real or fictitious character?
– As I told you above, Jacob is a realistic personality as much as he belongs to a root of reality, and he is imaginative and artistic as much as he belongs to the art of fiction writing.
This means, that you will not be able to find in Kuwait a person with the name, status, wealth, and family of Jacob, as presented by the novel!
• The reader may wonder about the great distribution that “Yacoub” is experiencing, as he is sometimes overwhelmed by his attraction to an Iranian girl named “Farnaz” of his children’s generation, and at other times he is troubled and worried about his son “Ahmed” joining a terrorist group in Syria, so what is the message that is linked to this node?
– There is no specific message, other than an explanation of the psychological state of the protagonist of the novel. With his belonging to his family, his headache, his relationship with his wife, and the loss of his son in the fighting in Syria, he suddenly finds himself drawn to the look of a young Iranian girl who works in his company, especially his hidden feeling that this girl is hiding something. And that a secret connects her with his Mujahid son, and this is revealed at the end of the narration.
Yaqoub is a model of the human personality with its distribution, dispersion and pain, despite being a millionaire and an influential figure in Kuwaiti society!
• Why does “Farnaz” fly like a butterfly in Jacob’s mind, whenever his grief over his son Ahmed intensifies?
Each of us seeks his salvation when life’s predicament intensifies, and each of us searches for a lifeline when drowning surrounds him.
Likewise, Jacob, in the midst of his defeat and loss with the news of his son’s capture and kidnapping, sees with his delicate human intuition, as a man over sixty years of age, and kneaded by the events of his life, he sees in “Farnaz” a lifeline, and extends the hands of his soul to it, so that it may help him, and the events of the novel follow to show that his intuition He was not a liar, and Farnaz, whom she described as a “butterfly,” had a great connection to the story of his kidnapped son.
• In your opinion, what are the real reasons behind the children’s fall into the well of religious extremism?
– The novel provides an answer to your honorable question, and it clearly says that the family is the first and most important cuddling to contain the children, and when this cuddling is dismantled and was a repulsive force, many parties will be welcome to receive the children, and contribute to washing their minds according to their agendas, whether they are fundamentalist parties. drug addicts, or any other activity.
Therefore, I see that the family bond and the intimate and calm family relationship is the greatest protector for our children from any loss that awaits them.
• You described the man who gives lessons to children in the mosque as a “bad old man.” How accurate is this description?
– First of all, I have very good and decent relations with a group of family, relatives and friends, all of whom are religious, and I have a great connection and love with them… We have to differentiate between the author’s opinion and words and the voice of the narrator.
When one of my heroes is a hitman and is a first person, that doesn’t mean I’m a hitman.
And when one of my heroes is a surgeon who makes a mistake in an operation, that does not mean that I am the doctor who should be tried, and if I ask a baker, a carpenter, or a pilot, it certainly does not mean that I am any of them.
As I said: the characters speak their tongue and their feelings. The protagonist of the novel, Father Yaqoub, describes the man who led his son to fanaticism and extremism, and then made him leave his homeland and join a group that strives in Syria, as a “bad sheikh.” This is specific to and applies to the character of “Abdul Shafi” in particular. It means a generalization.
Abdul Shafi’s personality was the main reason for Ahmad’s alienation from his family, and it was the direct reason for his boycott of his family, which amounted to insulting his mother and threatening his sister with death, in addition to that it was the real motivator behind Ahmad leaving his home and then leaving Kuwait! As you can see, a father who loses his son cannot be sympathetic towards the one who caused it.
The description came to condemn a particular character, and therefore it should not be generalized, otherwise the scene would be questioned and interpreted with what is not in it.
• How does a person love a girl, and not exchange her the same feelings regarding her origin and nationality? We mean the relationship of “Yacoub” with the Iranian employee “Farnaz”?
– The protagonist of the novel, Yaqoub Mutaym, with the look of the Iranian girl “Farnaz”, and he did not address any of his obsessions or fantasies to despise her, but on the contrary, he admires her. But he stands in front of himself with many questions that he does not find answers to, and on top of them: How can a man in his sixties kidnap a young woman younger than his daughter? How can a man who stood with the former Iraqi regime against the current Iranian regime fall in love with an Iranian girl? And he is in more than one situation, adopting her position, and reproaching himself for his connection to Farnaz, and he sees this as an abuse of his authority over her… Jacob was shaken by his meeting with Farnaz, so much so that he describes her as a “heap of roses”, and he has never despised her origin or her nationality.
• Is the age difference between a man and a woman an obstacle in the way of love between them?
– As a personal opinion, I see yes, the large age difference constitutes an obstacle in the face of a normal relationship between a man and a woman, and this does not negate the existence of healthy and very wonderful relationships, but I think that they are cases that should not be compared, given the many cases that witness incompatibility and separation that reach the point of enmity.
• It embodied the psychological conflict in its harshest form, through the suffering of “Jacob” who is engaged in a bitter psychological struggle on two fronts, the first because of the loss of his son Ahmed, and the second because of his attachment to Farnaz, so how does one live his life between love and refraction?
I think that the task of any creative work is to raise questions rather than provide answers.
In raising these questions, he directs the reader’s attention to the thorny human condition, and thus takes him to represent it and live it, perhaps reaching an answer.
And if he does not reach it, reality alone can provide various answers to the various life experiences. Jacob lives its distribution with his pain, and who do you see in us who does not live a distribution in one way or another? Jacob seeks his salvation, and who among us does not seek his salvation? We all live on the towering keel of the moment, and let us balance.
• It is said that love can make the old sheikh a young man, but “Jacob” did not find any alternative to thinking about undergoing plastic surgeries and “Botox” injections in order to gain the admiration of “Farnaz.” Do you support cosmetic operations for men?
– Jacob’s friend is the one who did plastic surgery, and Jacob kept repeating with himself his conviction that a person lives his life and that no one takes his time and the time of others.
With regard to my answer with my conviction, I am with living beauty, the beautification that man has practiced for thousands of years through its cleanliness and the correct choice of what suits him of clothing and grooming, natural beautification based on human behavior, far from beautification that sometimes distorts the human face more than it beautifies it.
• “I can’t stand the veiled woman,” a phrase that the protagonist of the novel said more than once. Is this your opinion as a writer?
– As you indicated, it is a phrase that was mentioned by the protagonist of the novel, Jacob, with his conviction, and I firmly believe that what matters to the reader is the extent to which Jacob is in harmony with himself, and not my personal opinion as a writer on the veil.
The origin of the creative work is that the character is in harmony with itself, away from the whims of the author.
• The ending was not happy, but rather it preferred to be sad and harsh, with the killing of the young man “Ahmed” by terrorist groups… Why?
As an author, I did not say that Ahmed was dead, for the last scene refers to a bullet being fired at him and his fall, and he did not say that he died.
And if you have read the scene with your kind influence, and you felt Ahmed’s death and that saddened you, then this is your opinion of your noble feelings, and as for me, I left the end open, because I am convinced that reality does not present a closed end to any human event.
The novel, in an unprecedented initiative, was published in all Arab capitals at the same time, and each publisher described the novel in his own way and produced it with a different cover design.
Regarding this experience, Al-Rifai said that “due to the nature of the Arab publishing market, the relations of Arab publishers with each other, and the difficulty of spreading and transferring the book from one Arab country to another, I contacted 14 publishers covering all Arab capitals, and I made a donation, waiving all my financial rights, in order to fight The adventure of publishing my novel in all Arab capitals in one day, to be accessible to the Arab reader wherever he is, and I will monitor the experience closely to see what it will lead to.”
“Everyone has a duty to tell his own story.”
Al-Rifai considered that “in life, there is no narrator on behalf of anyone, everyone is charged with telling his story, and if you bring up a narrator in a situation, you have to bear what he will say, and he may say what harms you unintentionally,” justifying the absence of the narrator’s role in “kidnapping the beloved.” , so that each character becomes the heroine who tells his own story.
He added, “I avoid speaking in the language of my heroes, for they have their tongues that reveal their worlds, and they have their obsessions and they are able to say them, and I am nothing but a bridge between them and the reader… Yes, in any creative work of mine, whether it is a short story or a novel, I deliberately use ( The first person’s conscience) or (the second person’s conscience), and to let the heroes of the work speak in their tongues, especially since the era of the information revolution, search engines and social networks, made every person a presence of his own, and a place to rely on.”
And he added, “In creative writing, which is the subject I teach at the university, the so-called (point of view) angle, which is the formula that the author accepts for his heroes, each separately, to appear in, and I always choose for my heroes to be who they are.”
When asked if he believed that preferring one of the sons over the rest of his brothers, it might reflect negatively on his upbringing and show us a person like the “terrorist Ahmed,” Al-Rifai affirmed that “a balanced relationship between mothers and fathers will form a safety fence and balance in the children’s psyche.
The preference of one of the parents for a boy or girl over the others, may provoke and annoy the rest of the children, and may be a sufficient reason to spoil the spoiled boy.
He added, “However, as you know, the novel does not say that the millionaire father’s preference for his son Ahmed was behind his deviation. Rather, the novel goes that Ahmed sees in his father’s personality a legal imbalance, and this is what makes him resent him.”