European Union Prize for Literature

Creative EuropeEuropean and International Booksellers FederationEuropean Writers' CouncilFederation of European Publishers


7 June 2018

Interview with Jamal Ouariachi

Last April, EUPL 2017 Dutch winner Jamal Ouariachi was the guest of Athenaeum Boekhandel to present his winning book Een honger. The evening was rich in events as Jeroen van Kan interviewed the author, Arie Storm paid him a tribute and an exclusive "marathonvoorleessessie", where several authors read from Jamal's book, was organised. After such an exceptional evening, EUPL took the opportunity to interview Jamal Ouariachi and ask him more about his book 

“[…] most of my novels seem to be autobiographical mainly in a prophetic sort of sense.”

What was the trigger, what made you decide to write the story of Aurélie and Alexander?

For me, a story never has only one trigger. It’s always three or four seemingly unrelated ideas that at some point somehow click together, and then I have a story. To name just one of the ideas for A Hunger: I envisioned a story with an ending that would be both happy and unhappy at the same time. So what I came up with was a euphoric scene between the two lovers, Aurélie and Alexander, and it’s really the last scene of the book, but it’s also a flashback, so the reader already knows what will happen after that scene, and that’s not too good. The effect is strangely melancholic, or at least that’s what I aimed for. Readers tell me that it actually does work that way for them.

Did you bring a part of yourself to the story? (in the analysis of the characters, their description, etc.)

It’s a bit creepy, but most of my novels seem to be autobiographical mainly in a prophetic sort of sense. My first novel was about a psychologist who abandons his wife and his profession to follow his heart and become an artist - by writing that book, I said goodbye to my own career as a psychologist and to my then-girlfriend, and became a writer. With A Hunger I wrote about parenthood, and two years after the book came out, I became a parent myself. So I guess that by trying to imagine what motherhood was like for Aurélie, the female lead character in the book, I also made the idea of parenthood more accessible or agreeable to myself.

Your book is written in different styles, a part of the novel is even written as a restaurant bill. Is there, therefore, a specific genre/style that you have not tried yet and would like to write in?

Playing with all those different styles and forms had a very specific function in A Hunger. The question is not whether I would like to try out a certain style, the question is what kind of style a story demands. So we’ll see how my next novel turns out…

Has EUPL opened new horizons for you? (Literary events in other countries, selling rights for translations into new languages, networking with other winners, etc.)

Absolutely. My book is currently being translated into ten different languages, and the film rights have been sold to a Dutch production company in the slip stream of winning the prize. All of that is, of course, absolutely fantastic.

What’s the language you would love to be translated into? Why?

English, for sure. It’s a ticket to even more translations. And since it’s the lingua franca of the world today, really, it would be nice to be able to travel anywhere and give someone a copy of your book that they can actually read.

Have you had a chance to read books by other EUPL winners, especially those coming from your own country?

I know Marente de Moor’s work, she’s the Dutch winner of the 2014 edition. And as far as the 2017 edition goes, Bianca Bellová’s winning novel Jezero came out last month in a Dutch translation, so that’s one I’m definitely going to read, and I’m really curious about Arcueil by Aleksandar Bečanović, because he’s such a funny guy and a walking film encyclopedia, but unfortunately, there’s no translation of his work available in either English nor Dutch yet, or at least not as far as I know.

20180530 Netherlands - Jamal Ouariachi - Written interview.pdf