January 10, 2012
The Department of Humanities at LAU organized a gathering December 15 with student Sahar Moukaddem and alumna Alexandra Chreiteh, both of whom have recently written and published novels in Arabic.
The two authors presented their work and shared their personal experiences of novel-writing. The gathering was moderated by Rachid Al-Daif, novelist and adjunct professor of Arabic creative writing at LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences.
Both Moukaddem and Chreiteh initially drafted the stories that would later become their novels as part of their coursework for a creative writing class with Al-Daif.
With exceptional support and encouragement from him, they continued to develop the stories after the course finished, and eventually got their novels published.
“I always tell my students to write their heart out. I’m always here for them, but I don’t tell them what to do,” says Al-Daif. “I see a small plant blooming and I water it, but I don’t change its nature.”
Moukaddem’s novel, Ana w-Karim wal-Sushi (“Karim, Sushi and I”), is a first-person dramedy that tells the story of a young Lebanese woman who gets pregnant. Deciding to keep the baby, she leaves Beirut for London, hoping to enjoy a peaceful pregnancy.
“Dr. Al-Daif encouraged me to continue writing, and I kept working with him for a year and a half until the novel was completed,” says Moukaddem, a communication arts major at LAU.
Chreiteh has published two novels, Deyman Coca Cola (“Always Coca Cola”) and Ali wa-Ummuhu al-Rusiyya (“Ali and his Russian Mother”).
Deyman Coca Cola, the English version of which has just been published in paperback, centers on three young women attending university in Beirut, whose fates intertwine as they explore their own identities as well as that of the city that made them converge.
Ali wa-Ummuhu al-Rusiyya tackles a more serious topic with as much earnestness as lightheartedness: the 2006 Lebanon war.
The novel chronicles the risible mishaps of Russian-Lebanese Ali as he evacuates Lebanon after the war ignites.
“Dr. Al-Daif really made writers out of us,” says Chreiteh. “He used to tell us just to write, without any self-censorship.”
She stresses, however, that writing is not all fun and games.
“It’s also a lot of work. Now, I have so much to do that I hardly have the time to write anymore. So I have to set a few hours a day for me to just sit down and write,” she says.
Chreiteh, who earned her B.A. in English literature from LAU, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Yale University.