May 27, 2018
Repubblica interviews Khalifa: “Literature proves that Syria will rise again”

Repubblica interviews Khalifa: “Literature proves that Syria will rise again”

Published by La Repubblica, March 16, 2018

It was 2011, and while the wind of hope of the Arab springs overwhelmed the region and even infected Syria, In Praise of Hatred came out in Italy: a powerful and uncompromising book that made known the most important voice of Syrian literature today, that of Khaled Khalifa. Since then, the writer has never stopped expressing his support of the youth who in 2011 had taken to the streets dreaming of a different country. Armed with recognition and the choice not to leave Damascus even in its darkest moments, Khalifa has become a symbol of those who dreamed of a different Syria. It is therefore significant, as well as sad, that No Knives in the Kitchens of This City, his new novel (Bompiani, translated by Maria Avino) arrives in bookstores when the dreams of those days seem over, and Syria is living one of the saddest phases of its history. A reality that Khalifa knows well, but refuses to accept: “It is not over – he says – our dreams are not completely dead. Literature, books and their protagonists show that human beings have always been able to survive. And to continue to hope.”


Mr. Khalifa, even if you tell a story of the past, you understand that his book is a very harsh attack on the regime. How is it possible that its publication was allowed?

“I do not know. All my books are against the regime. They let me do them, maybe because they got used to it, maybe because they have more complicated problems to deal with than a writer who tells stories of the past.”

Of the past but also of the present: lives broken by the dictatorship, cities destroyed…

“It’s the story of a generation, mine. One who lived in the 80s in an Aleppo that from a rich and vital city has turned into a dangerous place, where everyone could end up in prison for a word, the cinemas and theaters were closed, the schools were turned into centers of education in power, freedom and culture disappeared. For years I wanted to write about this.”

Do you write about it today?

“It is undeniable that it is very present in the book. Living under a dictatorship is an experience that does not change. But today it is more complex: we ended up in the middle of a war that is not ours, that the world is fighting on our land but that does not belong to us. A war whose protagonists have a common trait, that of not caring for civilians. And yet hope does not die.” Read more in Italian