HEMON: This idea of keeping death at bay with narration—its model is The Thousand and One Nights. And it suggests that storytelling is an affirmation of life. And I mean the basic fact of life—if you can tell stories, you are alive.
ALAMEDDINE: Yes. We are both from what I call “death on the shoulder” cultures. Many of my relatives saved themselves by entertaining people with guns. You get stopped at checkpoints; one cousin of mine knew she was going to die so she started talking to them. “I grew up in such and such a village,” and so on. She started telling her story very quickly—and they let her pass.
Continuing on this theme: The New York Times book blog Paper Cuts recently suggested a reading list devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, over at the VQR blog, Michael Lukas suggests some literary additions, including books by PEN America contributors Etgar Keret, David Grossman, and Mahmoud Darwish.
And in the Guardian, Pankaj Mishra seconds the Grossman recommendation. You can read Grossman's Freedom to Write lecture, from the 2007 World Voices Festival, here.
(Photo of Alameddine, above, by Beowulf Sheehan.)