Home > My books > Making my debut as an author

Making my debut as an author

Cairo 1995, photo by Veronique Audergon

I’m launching my first works as an author at a book-signing in Diwan Bookstore, Zamalek, tonight: Safahat min Muthakirat ‘Atil  (Pages from the Diary of an Idler) and ‘Atil bi Rubat ‘Anuq wa Saa’t Sadr Thahabiya (Idler with a Necktie and a Gold Breast Watch). They’re autobiographical works in which I’ve compiled fragments of prose and line drawings from my private journals that I’ve kept since the mid-1990s, capturing literary “snap-shots” of people and places in my life. As an image-maker, it’s all about freezing a moment in words rather than in a photograph or on canvas. After 25 years as an artist, I felt it was time to share my stories in writing, this new tool of expression. For me, the obsession to write is the same as the obsession to paint.

It took many years to decide to publish these highly personal reflections and drawings, created at key “moments of choices” in my life.  I wrote the journal that became Safahat min Muthakirat ‘Atil in 1995, the year I decided to leave clinical medicine to pursue a career in the arts. I was at a crossroads, making a series of difficult decisions, and also in a challenging love relationship. Writing was the best therapy, exactly like divulging secrets freely to oneself. My second book, Atil bi Rubat ‘Anuq wa Saa’t Sadr Thahabiya, is taken from my journals of 1998 to 2002, when I was working in marketing and advertising to finance a maturing art practice. In this book, I explore corporate and contemporary culture and also my travels, and the prose has a distinct rhythm: observation, reflection, questioning.  The line drawings in both books were always made at the same time as the original prose, sometimes linked, and sometimes entirely separate.

I developed the character of the “idler” to narrate both books.  He represents a certain part of my mind, the observer and commentator. Through his eyes, we see brief moments in time where there’s always a location, a self and an action. Like a camera moving fluidly between separate rooms, the idler’s perspective links the different scenes. He’s an adventurer at heart, an experimenter in life, audacious in his decisions, sarcastic by nature and ironic in his perceptions.  He’s someone who treats every space or location as transient. For me, he represents the vagabondism of the artist, outside society’s norms. I’ve never been an idler, never been doing nothing. But I’ve always been an idler in my mind, with this type of observation and ironic reflection. When finalizing these manuscripts for print, I discovered I have enough material for two more books, also narrated by the idler, and those are my next literary projects this year.

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