Ahmed Youssef Aqila is a Libyan storyteller and blogger, a researcher in folklore, and one interested in the environment. Some of his works have been translated into Persian, Turkish, English, French and Italian. He was born in 1956 in Jabal al-Akhdar in eastern Libya, where he studied until secondary school to join the literature department at the prestigious University of Benghazi in 1979. , before spending nearly 8 years (1981-1988) in compulsory service in the army during the reign of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Aqeela represents a special and distinctive creative case in Libya, and an experience full of details, relying on language and place as two main spaces, drawing from its rich environment, and discussing the most complex issues through her own vision and close grief, an experience that deals with life and writing with great sincerity, the short story was and will remain the focus of his life, He picks up, contemplates, writes and publishes with the thought of an entire institution capable of making his voice reach the far corners of the earth, holding on to the thread of narration that he does not let go except to pick it up again as if he is applying the saying of the French critic Todd and Rove “Narrative equals life, and the absence of stories equals death.”
Al-Jazeera Net met Ahmed Youssef Aqila, and this was the dialogue:
First of all, why can’t we stop telling stories?
To stop telling stories is to stop living, it is to stop dreaming and delusion as well, because we cannot live without illusion, then the story is my attempt to reformulate this world in another way, I do not claim to be the best, but it is my view of life, the story is also my way of criticizing it And sometimes to take revenge on him! I also punish people in my stories, and sometimes kill them, and I feel comfortable with that! Death is part of life, and it cannot continue without it. However, the death of a person in the story is far more significant than his biological death.
Reductive things remain in the memory for a longer period, and I naturally do not tend to talk a lot, so I find the story expresses what I want to say in short.
How do short stories have an impact that sometimes exceeds lengthy books? Where did you get all this influence from?
The flash of lightning in the dark is more amazing than a bright day. Looking at the sky through a small window stirs the imagination. Short things remain in memory for a longer period. By nature, I do not tend to talk a lot, so I find the story expresses what I want to say in short. Many of my friends asked me Writing a novel, and this is a scary thing for me, the space of the novel scares me, where do I get the seeds that cover all this wide field?
With the stylistic reversals imposed by creative writing, what about the traditional narration techniques in Ahmed Youssef Aqila’s fictional creations?
I am indebted to popular literature, as I have learned a lot from popular narration methods in writing the story. In a story entitled “Birds”: (There is a forest at the bottom, an oak tree in the forest, a nest in the oak, a bird in the nest, eggs under the bird, and birds in the eggs) to The end of the story, when I started writing this story, I used to weave along the lines of the well-known folk tale “Umm Bsaisi”, which relies on this method in succession and hierarchy, (Oh house, give me fire, and fire is for the blacksmith, and the blacksmith sharpens machetes for me, and the scythes for the reaper, and the reaper gives me deep, And immersion is for the mare..), the word that ends with the first sentence begins with the second sentence, and this apparent repetition creates a kind of rhythm, and the rising “taks”, in its regularity, are closer to the trotting of horses.
I also had in mind the rhythm of the “majruda”, which is a well-known form of popular poetry, which relies on this technique in succession and hierarchy as well. The word that ends with the first syllable begins with the second syllable, so why do we go so far in searching for style and rhythm?
Don’t you see that the characters coming from the memory of the place are difficult for the creator to win at the expense of the events? Do you think that all the heroes of your stories have had their luck in character analysis?
I draw my stories from the daily and usual, and the memory of the place in which I live is rich in characters, as I live outside cities and even villages, and the characters of my stories are mostly natural beings, even the spider can be a main character in my stories, as it makes the event with distinction, as the familiar character of the hero has become Stereotypical, the characters of nature are richer, and their semantic load is richer. The marginalized beings that passersby do not pay attention to are the ones that seduce me, possess me, as the margin is often richer than the text.
Folklore, its narrations are often incomplete and sometimes very short, the size of the “singing of knowledge”, as a researcher in this field, what most frightened you and what calmed you the most in the journey of diving into this deep sea?
Narratives of folklore are rich in legends, myths, and various narration methods, and from them I learned shorthand, I learned from “Science singsHow do I sum up the idea in the fewest possible words, abbreviation as a protection against gossip, what is expressed in one page, why do we write it in several pages?
You have your own position on the environment and its preservation, and this has a clear influence on your writings and titles. How can the narrator replace isolation between forests and mountains with society and people – the origin of stories – to tell his stories sometimes through the tongue of an animal or insect, as in “Dafdzad Tales”?
Animals and insects form a kind of parallel society, in which all the relations and conflicts in human society, and their evocation are rich in connotations, in addition to their own worlds that are more interesting than the worlds of people, and I do not wander in the forest as a tourist, but rather be part of it, bending over the paths of ants, contemplating And, listen, sometimes I take a magnifying glass to see a lot of detail. Of course, the donkey’s presence in the story should be different from its presence in the field, as Leonter Wessel says, “The roach’s presence in the story should be different from its presence in the kitchen.”
We are in a time when the authorities overlap.. The army general issues fatwas, and the cleric’s fatwas are like breaking political news. Rather, the cleric is closer to the security man, as he always tells you that merely criticizing the ruler is considered a departure from religion
Your writings have been translated into several foreign languages, including French, and your collection “The White Horses” is celebrated at the University of Toulouse in France. Are there specific criteria for what is chosen for translation into other languages to reach other readers?
When I write, the issue of translation is not in my mind, and I do not write according to specific criteria. I even wrote the short story without knowing its definition. Later on, I read the definitions and criteria, and thank God I wrote the story without seeing its definition! Because the definition is defining and framing, and it is difficult to put creativity in a specific framework, because creativity is of its nature to transcend. I asked Mr. Edgar Weber, the translator of the “White Horses” stories into French, along with Dr. Rasha Najm, about the reason for choosing this particular group, and he told me that he had seen the group and liked its celebration of nature, and its worlds closest to mythology.
With all the changes that have taken place in the region since 2011, and all this openness made possible by social networks, is it still possible to talk about “taboos”?
I joined the boarding school since the first year of elementary school, and there was my clash with authority, another authority that I am not familiar with in success, the authority of the principal, the teacher, the night supervisor of the boarding department, and even the head of the class, and often the stick was in the hands of each of them.
The obsession with power is almost the main theme in my stories.. Power is not only in its traditional sense.. but rather absolute power.. I see that most of life’s affairs are based on power, the power of instincts, hunger, thirst and fear are daily powers, love is power, time is power.
Before 2011, the political authority was central. There was one clear and specific red line, and we know how to circumvent writing about it. After 2011, the authority fragmented and became horizontal. The red lines multiplied, and terrorist groups seized entire cities and regions. Terrorism… the time of displaying knives on screens in the hands of faceless people… the time of gates and security barriers… masked men stopped us at one of the gates… and when they found out that we were writers, they said, “We are now liquidating members of the army and police… writers, their turn has not come yet.” They released us after describing our French dress as “the dress of the Crusaders”!
Even the religious institution, if it is true that it is an institution, was fragmented and lined up, and even announcing the Eid crescent became a kind of scoop! And the cleric, and I do not say the jurist, every Friday rattles for us the keys to heaven from the pulpit..and appointed himself by a government decision as a guardian of virtue, and these are proven cases in the courts..and the question: How can they be guardians of virtue when they are part of a corrupt government and receive their budget from it? Moreover, “Guardians of Virtue” is a designation from the remnants of the Christian Middle Ages. It was used by the Awqaf, knowingly or unknowingly. Religious extremism is the same in all religions.
We are in a time when the authorities overlap.. The army general issues fatwas, and the cleric’s fatwas are like breaking political news. Rather, the cleric is closer to the security man, as he always tells you that merely criticizing the ruler is considered a departure from religion.
I am very afraid, not of authority, even if it is frightening in any case. Rather, I am terrified of directness, because that strips me of the quality of the storyteller, and then I want to write something that will last, and I do not mortgage my writings to something temporary.
But with all this, the storyteller should not be dragged into talking about power directly, he should not forget that he is practicing an art, and directness has nothing to do with art. Anyone can write a post on his page to insult the power, but this is not the work of the storyteller.
One of them said to me, “I see you symbolizing in your writings, and avoiding direct speech, so why do you fear power to this extent?” I told him, in fact, that I am very afraid, not of power, even if it is frightening in any case, but rather I am terrified of directness, and that strips me of the quality of the storyteller. Then I want to write something that will last, and I do not mortgage my writing to something temporary, the writing will disappear with its disappearance.