Hassan Daoud: "The West wants us to be exotic"

january 2008 -

Lebanese author and journalist Hassan Daoud (1950) has noticed how interest in his work and that of his colleagues from the Islamic world has increased since 9/11. Arab literature received central focus during the Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2004 and will enjoy the same status during Winternachten in The Hague in January 2008. Daoud is pleased with all of the attention, but has a few critical comments.


"The West wants to get to know us and to understand how we think. But now the interest in our literature is much different than it was in the past, when Orientalists truly studied Arab society and submerged in Arab literature. During discussions with various readers and intellectuals in various countries, again and again I see what the West wants: literature that shows how exotic we are. That is a pity because the other literature, the authentic Arab novels and collections of poetry, could do a much better job of building a bridge between the West and the Islamic world."

Daoud, who lives and works in Beirut as an author and journalist, sadly watches the gap between the various schools in Arab literature grow due to the political developments of the past decade. "In the 1960s, a modern school of Arab literature developed without any protest from anywhere. The turning point was the war against the Soviet Union. The Islamic fighters who helped the Afghani returned to their own countries, taking the Jihad with them. A cultural war has been raging in the Arab world ever since. The traditionalists oppose authors who want to integrate Western ideas into our literature. Personally, I try to continue to work as a free thinker: as a journalist and as an author."

During Winternachten, Hassan Daoud will participate in programmed events including How to bluff your way into Arab literature. Witnernachten will be held in The Hague from 17 to 20 January 2008.