Interview with longlisted author Abdelouahab Aissaoui


When did you begin writing The Spartan Court and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I dedicated the whole of 2016 to researching the subject of the novel and visiting some of the places where the events take place. I began writing at the beginning of 2017.

There is no inspiration in the literal sense of the word. There is, instead, an analysis of the current conditions we are experiencing in the Arab world, and an awareness of the connection between this reality and historical events. Questions arise which the novel seeks to link with contemporary issues, or to pose the questions anew in fictional form.

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?

Editing, revision and reviewing the text all took an entire year. At that time, I was working in my office at home in the town where I live, Hassi Bahbah, 250 kilometres south of Algiers, the Algerian capital.

How have readers and critics received it?

Many readers have engaged with the novel on social media, posting reading responses and critical analysis, especially since the period covered in the book is unknown to many people. Critics within Algeria also engaged with it, and many wrote about it, including the critic Mohammed al-Amin Bahri.

What is your next project after this novel?

There is a novel on the horizon, which has some elements of fantasy and mystery. It is about a national political issue and focuses on a character type whose characteristics are recognisable in countries throughout the Arab world.