Libyan writer Hisham Matar (he has a new novel out), in an interview with Hari Kunzru for this month’s Guernica Magazine, on “the effect of totalitarianism on personal lives”:
Hisham Matar: … I feel that, since the fall of the Libyan dictatorship, something radical has changed. It has influenced the way that I deal with my loved ones, the way that I deal with myself, with my body. For example, there is the generation of Libyan writers that were imprisoned collectively in the late ’70s…
Hari Kunzru: This is an extraordinary story—Qaddafi invited everybody to a literary festival, and then arrested them all, and people were given a sentence up to ten years.
Hisham Matar: On average, yes, ten years. And they were all in their mid-twenties up to their early thirties. So to me, that story is moving only to a certain extent. It was after learning of certain details that I was moved very deeply. I have two friends who were part of this disastrous event and they were in the same cell. And they were allowed once a week to go out and shower, and there’s a very long line to the shower because there aren’t enough cubicles for all these guys. And one of my friends—who’s the better writer, I have to say—
Hari Kunzru: I love that this is significant… [Laughs.]
Hisham Matar: He would spend always too long in the shower.
Hari Kunzru: Ah.
Hisham Matar: And one day my other friend just couldn’t bear it anymore. He says “For God’s sake, come on—get out of the shower!” And my friend says to him, “But this is my body.” Huh? That’s enough. For me, that’s enough. That for me says more about the event and more about the reality.
Read the rest here.