Jonas Hassen Khemiri
(Sweden, 1978) has a Tunesian father and a Swedish mother. He studied literary theory in Stockholm and economics in Paris. In 2003 he made a successful debut with the novel Ett öga rött which was published in a Dutch translation in 2007 (A camel without a hump). In it an Arab pupil struggles with his identity in Stockholm and sets his own cultural background against the social reality around him. The novel was adapted for film. Khemiri's first play, Invasion!, gives an image (of the abuse) of the fear of the other. It was successfully staged in Sweden, Germany and France. Khemiri's second novel, Montecore, is being translated in Dutch.(WIN2008)
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Is this a coincidence? Three debuts from countries far apart, showing striking resemblances. The novels of Jonas Hassen Khemiri (Sweden), Hassan Bahara (Netherlands) and Ahmad al-Aidi (Egypt) are set in the big city, in multi-ethnic surroundings, and the main characters share the same radical anti-attitude: they rebel against the dominant culture or against their own insensitive milieu. How to rebel? By manipulating, bastardising, by silencing language, by, as is the case with Al-Aidi, mixing street language with classical Arabic. These young urban writers give us their image of contemporary, chaotic city life and although this is not particularly cheerful, at least their free use of language makes for an agreeable vitality. New literature of the 21st century. Interviewer: Paul van der Gaag. In English.