Q&A with Pierre Jarawan
In anticipation of the American release of his novel The Storyteller and our event with him on April 10th, we interviewed author Pierre Jarawan on his inspirations and some of his favorite reads!
I always wanted to write a novel. When I was 13, I promised my mother to buy her a house once I’d be a famous and rich author (I assumed all authors were very rich and famous since their books found their way to me). Luckily, today she does not insist. I tried writing my first novel when I was 16, but I did not have a story to tell. I just loved writing because I loved reading.
It took me a few more years to realize that my personal background is the story I am best able to tell. I started doing research about Lebanon, its history, the war, and the post-war situation. By doing this research more and more puzzle pieces came together. In the beginning, I just wanted to write a story about a young man who belongs to the second generation of immigrants we see in so many countries. There is a tragedy to their lives: they did not make the choice to move to another country, the choice was made for them by their parents. While growing up, these second-generation immigrants are always confronted with a somewhat romanticized view of their “home” country, and can’t help asking themselves, “Where do I really belong?”
That was my starting point and from there my novel grew.
As you wrote, did Samir surprise you in any way?
Oh yes, it surprised me how hard he found it to adjust to life in Germany and how much he longs for a Lebanon he’s never seen. In that way he differs from me a lot. If you asked Samir, where is your “home,” he would instantly reply, “Lebanon, because it’s my father’s country." If you asked me, I would tell you, “I have two homes, Germany and Lebanon.” I don’t feel conflicted between them. I feel at home when I am here, and I feel at home when I am there. But, then again, I know that I am somewhat privileged because my mother is German. Samir’s parents are both Lebanese, and although he was born in Germany, it’s so hard for him to find peace there. His father’s bedtime stories play a big role in that conflict.
What are you currently reading?
Currently I am reading Don DeLillo’s Underworld.
Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?
There are many books I love and I find it hard to choose just one. But I can tell you that I love William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. When I was 16, I read it as an adventure book for teenagers. When I re-read it at the age of 25, I thought that it was a much more philosophical novel. It never ceases to impress me how many layers such a small book can have. Other contemporary authors I love are Donna Tartt, Michael Chabon, and Julian Barnes (and many others…).
What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I am almost finished with my second novel. It will come out in Germany in Spring 2020. It will be about the 17,000 people who disappeared in the years of the Lebanese Civil War and who are still missing today. There are many untold stories about this country and I am happy to talk more about that at our event. I am very much looking forward to that!
Make sure to come hear him speak at Book Culture on Columbus at 7pm on Wednesday, April 10th!
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