April 26, 2018
Barakat to Asharq Al-Awsat – “Broaching taboo subjects must be done with respect”

Barakat to Asharq Al-Awsat – “Broaching taboo subjects must be done with respect”

Published by Asharq Al-Awsat, April 2nd, 2018

Barakat to Asharq Al-Awsat “I am comfortable with the frequency of my writing, and am not tempted by promotion”

In her latest novel, The Night Post, Hoda Barakat adopts a new “trick” to immerse the reader in a game of five letters, written by five different senders as confessions to people they will never see again.


These senders don’t expect an answer, or demand an explanation, or even hope for a justification. The letters are a sort of parallel admissions from people who only have one thing in common: the postman, who in turn will get caught in the vicious circle of war that turns the messages he carries into unresolved stories: “They pile up like dead leaves in empty street corners.”

Barakat never writes a novel she senses she might get bored with herself, nor one that doesn’t innovate. “Innovation doesn’t only concern the subject, but also the level of awareness in the process of writing. Therefore, the novel (The Night Post), doesn’t resemble what preceded it neither in approach nor in size, nor subject. For me, every book is an adventure; although it may revolve around the same questions, there is always a difference in style and the means of expression.” The trick in The Night Post is in line with the objectives that she wanted to reach. The characters’ lives are broken. They don’t know where they started, and they have no convictions about their past; which is why they stumble on their path towards an uncertain future. “There is no absolute certainty for these people. The confessions they wrote aren’t really confessions, most of them are lies, cheating and deceit, as well as news of stories that didn’t actually happen; because nobody knows what the truth is.” Barakat continues: “There is no certainty in the whole world to begin with. Immigrants leaving their country don’t know where to go. All the Arab countries are terribly shaken up. What I wanted to say in this novel could only have been written this way. Not one line of the letters reaches its recipients. It would be a disaster if it did; therefore, the content of the letters doesn’t require an answer, and doesn’t lead to certainty.”

With all the rumors about the difficulty of breaking taboos in Arabic, Barakat says she writes what she wants and was never given grief about it. “Broaching taboo subjects must be done with respect, and without provocation. Dealing with the forbidden is no easy feat. The aesthetics of narration need a great effort to deal with the so-called ‘untold’.” Read more in Arabic