Pulp.net - Ala Hlehel

The Online Home of New Fiction

November 2008
My Literary Top 10:
Ala Hlehel

Top 10
Best short story I’ve ever read
Since it is impossible to answer this question, I’ll answer it with the additional qualification “that I recall”. So, the short story I remember as the best now, was written by Palestinian writer Mahmoud Shukair, and is called ‘My cousin Condoleezza’.
Book that should be on the national curriculum:
Palestinian writer Imil Habibi’s novel The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist. It is a great piece of art, a masterpiece of modern Arab writing, dealing with political issues.
Best ‘film of the book’
Didn’t read this kind of book, didn’t see this kind of a film.
The most scary question you have even been asked?
Once, I was asked by my first girlfriend: Do you think I’m fat?... I still don’t answer this kind of question! Not under any circumstances!!!
My favourite opening line of a novel
“This narrow and small road shouldn’t be called avenue in the first place, but the high and old trees surrounding it give the people the nerve to call it so, despite the fact that there couldn’t be any avenues in a small village”. (My translation)
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of
Al-hamishi, written by the great Palestinian author Ryad Baydas.
The book I’d most like to reread, if I could find it again
When I was young I read a novel called ‘Dying from love’ (again, my translation), which I couldn’t find anywhere when I looked for it again. It doesn’t help that now I don’t even remember the author’s name.
My favourite bookshop
Eben Rushd, an Arab bookshop in Paris.
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature
Mahmood Darwish, the famous Palestinian poet. He succeeded in building a perfect poetry project, a modern and deep one.
Deceased author I’d most like to jam with
The Arab ancient poet and author Abu Al-Alaa’ Almaaree. The story goes that one day he was eating jam, and he was blind, so his beard was full of it. One of his students came and asked him to clean himself. He took that as a big humiliation and never again ate jam till he died. I want to have lunch with him and help him eat his favourite jam again.
Ala Hlehel is Palestinian, but his short story, ‘My Husband is a Bus Driver’ (featured in Banipal Live mini-anthology Unbuttoning the Violin), will resonate with anyone who has sat on the back seat of a bus and dreamed about a better life over the chugging of the engine. Ala was born in Jesh, Galilee, in 1974 and graduated from the Tel Aviv School of Screenwriting and Haifa University. He has written numerous short stories, plays, and scripts for film and TV, and in 2003 he took part in an international playwrights’ residency at the Royal Court, London. He has received a number of awards for his work, among them the 2003 Young Writer Award from the AM Qattan Foundation. Ala has also worked as a radio presenter in Haifa and, until recently, was editor-in-chief of Al-Madina weekly newspaper there. He lives in Acre.