[Interview] Jamal Ouariachi – Hunger
Jamal Ouariachi is a Dutch writer known for his contemporary stories that question and actualize topics marked as taboo. His book “Hunger” was translated in Macedonian and presented to the audience during the European Literature Festival, BOOKSTAR. In the short interview we made with him we talked about the importance of political and social criticism, his book and taboos in our modern society.
1.What is currently the biggest taboo according to you in our society?
“Well I think child abuse, as far as my book is concerned, is one of the biggest taboos and with a good reason I think.
Everywhere in Europe where right wing politics are rising, it seems to be taboo almost to be left wing nowadays, where I see left wing just as the idea that you want to have society that’s good for everyone. I don’t know, a lot of countries are changing nowadays, at least where I come from, the Netherlands, there are a lot of right wing parties, so it’s almost a taboo to be social, not in a communist sense but just as an idea.”
2. A book can be a very powerful thing, as long as there is anyone to read it. How can literature restore public attention?
“As a writer you don’t have to do anything, there are no rules for writers, but for me personally what I need to do is to tell stories about our time. We can write historical novels, but they can still be novels from out time, contemporary and accessible for people in these days. There is so much more depth in novels then in most films you see, so I think as long as people see that they can have different experience, not per say better experience, but different experience than other kinds of art and entertainment. As long as you try to be very committed to that job, to convince people that they can get something from books I think we can, maybe not restore public attention, but keep it alive.”
3. The name of your book is “Hunger”, with very explicit sense of explaining big social event and stories. Do you feel a dying need to speak about thing a lot of people are afraid to?
“I don’t especially feel the need, but I think that the art that is literature should always be about things that you can’t get anywhere else. Entertainment is always there to please people which is fine in some sense, but when you go to art you expect something different from your everyday experience. Where I come from, I think it goes the same for a lot of readers, a lot of readers are looking for recognition, they want to recognize their-self or their own life in books and that is fine with me, but I find interesting, as a reader, to find something different in a book. Something that I didn’t know or that it’s not my experience. I think a book can make your world bigger, so that’s what I always look in a book. So, yes, literature is one of the places where you have the freedom to do that, to confront people with that they don’t want to hear.”
4. How do you like the cover of the book and do you think it’s metaphorically correct?
“I was very pleased with the cover and that is not just to be nice or kind, but I really like it. It has several meanings of the title tied in to it. Of Course one of very obvious level is it’s called “Hunger” in English and “Глад” in Macedonian, so the fork is obvious in that sense, but the fact that it looks like a hand and a finger gives it something creepy which is tied to the theme of the book. I think that was a very good idea.”
5. Do you believe there is still place for taboos in our modern societies?
“I think there is a need for taboos, but also a need to attack the taboos, for example, in my own book one of the characters talks about sexuality and I don’t agree with everything that he says, but we have very strange attitude towards sexuality. The way we look at it, is we have naked women in commercials showing us products and we find that very normal and we see people making love on TV, but not really, because if we show people who make love in an actual sense that would be pornography and that is forbidden, that is taboo. But it’s not a taboo to show violence on TV or in film, we do it in the most extreme and graphic way, with all the details, all the blood, apparently that is fine to show that to kids and to anyone, but two people making love that is a taboo. That is strange, that is a kind of thing I try to attack, those kinds of ideas we have in society.”