Syrian War Memoirists in Conversation at BOMB
At BOMB, Alia Malek interviews Molly Crabapple and Marwan Hisham, co-authors of Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War (One World, 2018). Crabapple, who also illustrated the book, explains how her friendship with Hisham was strengthened through the learning of Arabic, and eventually through poetry:
[Molly Crabapple] ....[Marwan] gave me copies of Nizar Qabbani and an Arabic translation of the Kurdish epic Mem wa Zin by Ahmed Khani. He taught me so much in terms of poetry, music, novels, classical sayings. I really learned my Arabic at his hand. While we were writing the book, I would be sending pirated e-books to Marwan when he was in Raqqa, like Lolita, and Homage to Catalonia, and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. In return, Marwan would send me poems by Nizar Qabbani like “(Al deek), The Rooster.” He would correct all of my Arabic essays, and introduced me to different political figures and classical historians. We would argue about Ibn Khaldun and I would track specific lines down (laughter). Much of our friendship has really been based on loving each other’s literature.
AM Marwan, in the book you are obviously critical, and rightly so, of the west. How do reconcile that with your love of English?
MH My love for English started as wonderment for the outside world. I love many things about the west, even if I have issues with certain government policies, it has nothing to do with the country. As I mention in the book, my father was interested in politics and naturally I became interested at a very young age. So of course at the beginning I would kind of mix them together, you know, the notion than America is evil, that the West is evil in general, and English is western… but that did not last long, simply because it does not make sense.
AM Yes, even though it doesn’t make sense, do you think that, for whatever reason, it seems to be the consensus in many places? In the same way that people are so Islamophobic, they think there’s nothing beautiful to be learned from knowing Arabic?
MH One of the very negative things in the west is that these specific things make people ignorant about other countries and cultures. But you don’t need to read much about any other culture to see that there are many things, if not the summer or sand, you’re going to like too.
Read the full conversation at BOMB.