Hoda Barakat was born in Beirut in 1952 and brought up in Bsharré, Lebanon. She has worked in teaching and journalism, and has published five novels, two plays, a book of short stories and a book of memoirs, as well as contributing to books written in French. Her work has been translated into a number of languages. She has received critical acclaim in the Arab world and abroad and was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel The Tiller of Waters and the al-Nagid Award for The Stone of Laughter. In 2002 she became Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and then the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite National in 2008. She currently lives in Paris.
Words without Borders: For those who will read you in the English translation, what advice would you give?
Hoda Barakat: I don’t believe in advice. Reading a book is a matter of feeling and (good) timing. It’s a kind of encounter without appointment. So it seems useless and pretentious [to give advice]. About the translation to English, I’m lucky to have a very good translator at my side, Marilyn Booth. With my two novels The Tiller of Waters and Disciples of Passion, it was a wonderful experience. It’s like having a soul sister. We will continue to work together.
WWB: Could you talk about the writers who influenced you?
HB: They are so many! And from very different languages, cultures, and epochs, in Arabic or translated into French or Arabic.The influences change as life does, with age and other circumstances, times and places. We never read the same book [the same way] at different ages. started to read when I was very young, and when I come back to the books that deeply affected me in this period, I feel ridiculous. . .but with some nostalgia and tenderness, of course. And for some other books. I still return to them and delight in their pages!
WWB: What writers would you recommend English-language readers pay attention to?
HB: The modern Arab novelists—[go] beyond The Thousand and One Nights and Mahfouz!
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