Interview with longlisted author Rasha Adly
When did you begin writing Passion and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I began writing [Passion] two years ago. The inspiration for it came when I read the meaning of the expression “severed neck”. I learned that it was previously used to tell off young girls, by likening them to Zeinab al-Bakri. She was the first girl to be killed by slicing her head from her body. Her story aroused my curiosity, especially as it is shrouded in mystery. Was she a criminal or a victim? The Egyptian and French history books that mention her have contradictory accounts. I brought her story to life in the novel through the discovery of a painting of her by a French artist, a member of the French entourage during the Egyptian campaign. During the restoration of the painting, an art historian who is doing research discovers many secrets. The book also throws light on an important period of Egyptian history through the exciting events it portrays.
Did the book take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
It took about a year and a half. It is set in Cairo, Paris and Istanbul. I wrote most of it where I live, in Cairo, and some parts were written during my visit to Istanbul.
How have readers and critics received it?
Reactions have been encouraging and stimulating. One critic used an expression which I liked. He called it an “encyclopedic novel”.
What is your literary project after this novel?
I have begun writing a new novel. The heroine is a translator who is translating the memoirs of an Ottoman princess, who played an important role in a critical period of Egyptian history.