Egyptian-born Khaled Al Khamissi talks Taxi and future plans over coffee with Time Out…
Were you surprised by the success of Taxi? How I feel about my writings is very similar to a pendulum that moves constantly from right to left. At one moment I feel that what I write is very beautiful and reflective of what I want to say. And at another moment I feel it is meaningless and needs to be thrown in the rubbish.
Why do you think so many people liked it? An English writer once said – and it is very true – that people like to read what confirms their beliefs and experience. Readers reject the writer who tries to impose a point of view to which they cannot relate. Apparently, Taxi confirms readers’ experiences.
Taxi has been credited with reviving an interest in reading in Arabic-speaking markets. Do you agree? The political and economic crisis has created the state of congestion that Egyptian society is suffering from, thus we witness more riots, sit-ins, publishing houses, new newspapers and readers. These new readers are searching for solid grounds and because of this search they have become interested in what is produced around them, especially literature. I believe the cultural scene is very active and literature is blooming. What Arabic authors do you like at the moment? It’s hard to answer this because I might like a certain piece of writing from an author but not another. There are writings I did not like 20 years ago, but I like them now. Literature is like a sea, every moment is a new wave. There is always a new wave of writers, ideas, and schools of writing and so there is always a new kind of pleasure for readers.
EAIFL is the first festival of its kind in the Middle East. What do you think of it? I am very optimistic about it. I believe it is important, because literature, culture and art are our only way to progress. They are our way to overcome political and cultural ignorance.
Is there anybody you’re particularly looking forward to seeing at EAIFL? I want to meet the Libyan writer Ibrahim Al Koni. I adore his writings. It’s very important for writers to meet. Such gatherings motivate the writer and challenge him to proceed. Do you prefer writing or film making? I produce documentaries and TV series, but I prefer writing to filmmaking. Filmmaking for me is where I earn my living. Writing is my genuine passion.