A Dialogue about Before Dinner

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Faisal Hamadah (FH): When I began the translation of your play, you informed me that you began writing the text in formal Arabic (fuḥa)… Why did you change it to the colloquial? With this in mind, I’m also saddened by the fact that this play has been published in Japanese, and now in English, but has not found publication in Arabic, and was hoping you could speak to this fact.

Yasser Abu Shaqra (YA): When I began writing the text, it had no relation to realism. The change in the language of the text came with the change in its written structure. What forced the transformation of its structure is the radical shift that occurred in Syria and around the world, which shifted my own vision of Syria, and my vision of the world. Following the outbreak of the revolution in Syria, I began to feel that the shape of the writing had to be closer to a certain kind of realism. It was the opposite situation in 2010, when Assad’s state was suffocating us without there being anything to impede it. Back then, realism wasn’t ‘realistic’ enough.

With the outbreak of the revolution, I think we saw the reality that al-Assad’s regime was concealing and suffocating. This reality exploded over the course of the past few years. In a similar fashion, I wanted my own text to begin in realistic mode and explode. I don’t know if I managed to achieve this.

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