Sahar Khalifeh

Palestinian writer

Sahar Khalifeh (Arabic: سحر خليفة) (born 1941) is a Palestinian writer.

Quotes edit

Interview (2021) edit

  • When I published my first novel, I was not so clear about what I feel or believe. Through the years, more than 40 years, I developed as a writer, as a feminist, and as a deeply politicized and humanized person. Thanks to my patience and will. Through the years I learned and learned, and I am still learning.
  • I think that readers of novels usually read for enjoyment and a little inspiration and knowledge. Readers of novels, I think, are not skeptical like those who read works of social sciences or history. They already know that what they are reading is fiction despite the fact that, at times, that fiction might have elements of truth in it. Even when that fiction is realistic, they know that the reality they are reading is not 100% real. It is a reality that is seen through the eyes of the novelist or created by the novelist. And this is what I consider bliss because it gives me, and gives other novelists, an open space where we can play with reality, or have fun with reality, or ignore reality altogether.
  • I was nothing and became something. Others can learn from that, especially women. Is it worth trying? I think it is.
  • I am a committed writer or maybe I am an obsessed writer. I am obsessed by occupation because I live it. I witness the atrocities of occupation. I witness and live through those atrocities and still am living them. My characters represent what I experience, what I feel, what I think and believe. My characters, in a way, are me. I am them, whether in this novel or the previous ones or after.
  • I usually start by choosing the plot. According to that plot, I choose my characters. When I choose my characters, it becomes easy to follow them wherever they go and live with them or be them. I do not choose characters if I am not familiar with their backgrounds. I select them from real life. If they are historical characters, I study their biographies very well and then let my imagination take care of the details. This is the game of writing fiction.
  • (Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading and re-reading?) SK: Dostoevsky and Simone De Beauvoir. Since I was a young teenager, I started reading them and I never stopped...Those two writers affected me deeply. But this is not the whole truth. The truth, the real truth, is that the writer, any writer, is made by all the readings she or he makes. We are influenced not just by one or two or ten writers. We are influenced by everything we read. Whether we are aware of this fact or not makes no difference. We read, we devour. We digest what we read and grow. Just like food. Without food we never grow. Without reading we never write.

Interview (2004) edit

in Literature and War: Conversations with Israeli and Palestinian Writers by Runo Isaksen, translated into English by Kari Dickson (2008)

  • On the whole, the situation for Palestinian women today is just as it was. There have been no real changes, though there are of course more educated women, more female doctors, university lecturers, artists, and writers. But they come from the elite classes and live in a completely different world from the masses. The truth is that the Islamist movement has had a great influence on the masses over the past 30 years, and has robbed women of many of the few small victories that we had achieved. So what do we need? First and foremost, we need better political leadership, a leadership that takes women seriously and introduces laws that entail that women are treated as equals. Personally, I am working for liberation and human rights for all. Despite the many setbacks, I still believe that I have had a certain influence. I was the first feminist in the Arab world to write about women's issues in a literary form. I have had some influence on educated women, but I have not had much influence on men-and it is men who dominate society here, at all levels.
  • (What are the greatest obstacles to equality for women?) There are many, many obstacles in our way. The Israeli occupation, naturally. Our own traditional leadership. Poverty and illiteracy. There is also a dangerous lack of real communication and friendship with the Western world. The West views us with suspicion and we are suspicious of them. I think that communication between different cultures is essential to development. I myself have studied in the West, I have lived and worked there and can, with my hand on my heart, say that I have no exaggerated dreams about Western culture. But I am absolutely convinced that the Western world has a lot to teach us. I only wish that you were not so biased, as then the world would be a better place. At least for us!
  • Israelis are always minor characters in my books. Why? Because in reality we only come into contact with soldiers and other representatives of the occupation. We have minimal contact with Israeli civilians. How can I write about somebody or something I don't really know? Despite my best intentions and feelings for them as fellow human beings, I can't capture them as full-rounded figures. After all, what is literature? It reflects life, society, and the people who live there. Not in the same way that a photograph does, of course, since the author's personal feelings and opinions will be blended in. An author also strives to transcend reality and make it more beautiful and valuable. You could say that I have one obligation in my writing and that is to reflect the lives of people living under the occupation. My literature is highly political, as our lives are dominated by politics. But it is not dry or rigid, as you might easily imagine. My characters are full of life. They are flesh and blood. You can feel them, smell them, and touch them.
  • Our culture does not mean that much to me. It is not sacred. I am very critical of it. It has to change. We cannot develop unless we are strong enough to face our own weakness, head on. And Islam, well, Islam is a part of our culture.
  • (As a feminist author, do you feel that you have a special responsibility?) Well, the fact that I am a feminist author with a feminist vision of the world does of course make my literature very critical-and the criticism is targeted at both my own society and Israel. I can see that both societies are oppressive in different ways. The reality in which I find myself at any given time is extremely complex and that means that it is very difficult for me to write without watching every step I make. I cannot allow myself the luxury that other writers may have elsewhere; I cannot just rattle off something for no other reason than to satisfy my own feelings and dreams. I really feel that I represent my people, despite my critical views on our culture and many of its beliefs and values. So yes, I do feel a responsibility to change some of those beliefs and values. My position means that I am constantly in conflict with our traditional leaders, not just political, but also religious and social leaders."
  • All attempts to bring writers and artists, even feminists, from both sides together have failed. And why? Because the Israelis feel superior, rather than equal to us. That is one reason. The other is that they don't feel connected to the Third World in any way. They are connected with the first or the Western world. And third, they are deeply racist. So I ask myself, how can a person grow up in such an atmosphere without being infected? It isn't easy to deal with them...The truth is that there is a complete divide between us and them, geographically, politically, and culturally. The only Israelis we Palestinians have any contact with are the soldiers. That is the reality.

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: