Name: Fahmi Abassi
Where are you from:
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc
I opened my eyes in a family where I found myself the latest child. My father was deeply influenced by the new trends of thought and poetical dictions. He, alongside with his colleagues, were making many conversational sessions at home to discuss topics about language, literature, criticism, theater, thought and philosophy, and the latest tendencies of poetry, I was listening to all these as a child and thus a desire of being one of them has grown with me.
For some personal issues, I refused to go to the university. At that time, I needed to know who Iam, not where I stand on the ground but where my place is in this world. I lived in almost total loneliness during four years asking questions and seeking answers, till 2007 when I felt myself ready to meet life and people I entered the university and studied Law. After a graduation with special mention, I directly joined the High School of Magistracy after which I worked as a prosecutor, and I kept writing my novel since then notwithstanding the pressure of work till I had the first book entirely completed the right way.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just finished the first book in my Trilogy of which the title is: Ascent Of Azariel-Book one: The Isthmian Rift. This book is written in Arabic, and I’m thinking now of making an English literary translation for it.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I grew up in a house where I found myself surrounded with my father’s books. He was fond of reading all kinds of thought especially the new trends in Europe and America whether they are philosophical, literary or poetical.
For my father’s ophthalmic defect I was used to read books to him as he was listening deeply before falling asleep. He was always encouraging me to write anything when I was still a child, and I wrote my first diary when Iam eight, but what would a careless child write more than just disrupted feelings and scattered thoughts? I learnt little by little how to write a good text with a fluent language attracts the taste of an emotional reader. After years of primitive trials in writing, I could come to understand my nature; that I don’t write to reach the apex of rhetorical flourish, but only because this is what I find myself able to give to the world more than anything else, and that writing is the real cure for a wounded soul, and the true kind of freedom I was from the beginning looking for.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
On 2011, when I decided to write this Trilogy: Ascent Of Azariel, I started writing it as if I wrote thousands of books. It may be my first work, but it came after years of writing many kinds of literature. But when the idea of this Trilogy has completed in my thought the need then arose for coming out with what I have concluded from my life experience.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
What inspired me most to write this Trilogy is a message that was coming over me in the dream. A powerful message that repeated many times with almost the same details: that there are three dark times to come, and there will be a sad fate, and that the price of true knowledge must be paid…and these three words repeat: Helas! Helas! Helas!…and Credo Quia Absurdum…a very sad and dark dream repeats again and again, so in this Trilogy I put everything I understood from these meaningful and profound dreams.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I use religious symbolism because I believe that the spiritual experience cannot be expressed but by the symbol. I found myself more capable of writing Epic Novels, this is why my first book is a large volume of which the number of pages exceeds 300. It is only a long story which may contain complicated spiritual conclusions.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The hero whose name is Azariel reflects Man in some way or other, and his ascent or ascension is in fact the way he takes up towards retrieving the true knowledge, this is why “Ascent Of Azariel” means symbolically the ascension of Man towards the true knowledge.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Of course there is: That among the distorted mirrors there is only one mirror reflects truth and that the criterion of distinction between ‘the true’ and ‘the false’ lies within us. So, I talk in my book about these things:
-The role of error and false knowledge in human life.
-The criteria of distinction between the true knowledge and the false one.
-The steps of Self-knowledge as the only key towards truth.
-The role of evil and contradiction.
– What Fate decides and what Man can decide.
-The true meaning of freedom and independence.
-The price of true knowledge and the meaning of true responsibility…and many other ideas that appeared to me essential for better understanding of life and the world.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All the book from the beginning to the end is based upon realistic experiences of which the general feature is spiritual, this is why the book takes the shape of a myth or legend. Events happened left deep traces and scars, and moved me to live years seeking to understand the system of my life, as by understanding it I can understand people, because no matter how different we are our depths remain always common.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
There was a time in my life I was everyday reading the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson however, before then, I was reading about self-knowledge, and books about the philosophy of religions, then I read all the holy scriptures, the Quran and as many sacred books as I could because I was looking for understanding more that term called “truth” and the form that it may take: monistic or dualistic or pluralistic.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t think that I will like an author more than Mr. John Logan, writer and creator of the series: Penny Dreadful. Though the huge distances and differences between my cultural background and his, I found out that we almost share many concepts, many sentiments many convictions, contradictions, and conclusions, I share with this author all these, this is why I watched the series countless times. John Logan is an amazing legend in our today world, and I really wish I will meet him someday just to enjoy for one moment the company of such great and rare personality.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
After my brother Nadjib comes my friend Toumi Larbi and his wife who were both my colleagues in the High School Of Magistracy. They supported me emotionally and stood by me in the worst moments. They took the first manuscript and made me feel that what I did is something worth reading. My friend’s sister also took a copy and encouraged me a lot by showing her complete readiness for any kind of support. This friend is a PhD in Law, and he reads a lot about religions and philosophy, and he gave me great support after scrutinizing what I wrote, so I owe this guy a lot indeed.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
To a certain extent yes, however, here in the country where I live it cannot be. Moreover, I think that a writer should work many things and should see life from different angles to be able to express it from a close view, and give deep ideas with deep understanding to the world.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. What I put in the book is a precise partial conclusion that will be completed in the next two books, so I can’t change something I know well why it must be written this way.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
In the first years of early childhood when Iam eight I wrote my first diary, this was after the death of my second cat, and the cruel decision I took of not having pets again as long as there is death in this world, now, I remember the profound solace I found in writing things I feel and think of. My father told to write only those things that made me sad or happy: ‘not everything should be written if we want a diary worth reading’ he said.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I hope I can, but the first book is still in the publishing house and will appear next month according to what they told me when I recently called them. It is a real pleasure that I share my work with you, and I request that your kind suggestion will be possible after my book is fully published.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes. What I do is a kind of writing almost unknown in the Arabic world. We don’t have philosophical or epic novels so what I wrote appears to be something freakish for local classical readers, and this made many famous publishing houses refuse to publish my book for commercial reasons, also the Ministry of culture refused to help. I fortunately found someone whose publishing house is new who accepted to publish the book. I also thought of translating this work into English language but the cost was something out of reach currently because of the huge volume. So, though this book appears to be something of great importance, however, because of being found in the wrong place, it will remain unknown for a long time if not forever.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Yes. I go here and there and contact many people to ask for help and advice in order to be able to make this work appear the way it should be. It is an effort that I see indispensable if someone is willing to make their dreams come true, but not every effort ends fruitfully this we must bear in mind, yet we have to keep trying to the last breath.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My brother Nadjib is a gifted man, he encouraged me to write this book and made a unique design for it. He understands every idea I give to him and incarnates it on the grounds of fact the way I want it to be. I will always be thankful to him.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part for my brother was the design of the cover and the map and the images inside the chapters which took much time. For me, finding suitable names for the characters and the places was not an easy task , I had months in search to finally find what serves the idea.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learnt how to track the true knowledge when I ,in confusion, think that I lost direction. I learnt to keep balance and walk over darkness and chaos and in full certainty in time of fear and doubt. I learnt to be responsible for my decision and for the personal torture that comes as a result from it. I learnt how to rule myself and how to conquer darkness in the deepest areas in my inner world. I learnt that complaining from the world does not help in understanding its problems and complications. I learnt that I have no enemies in this life and that the world is the place where I have come to retrieve the forgotten knowledge within me…thousands of things I learnt from my first book, and thousands of things I will learn from the rest of the Trilogy, this is what I have brought with me to the world, and this is what I look forward to share with the smart readers.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Choosing a suitable character to play the lead isn’t an easy task, this is why I prefer to leave such difficult mission to a great and talented fantasy movie director like Sir Peter Robert Jackson.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write deep things about life and Man. Help us know who we are, and what we should live for. A writer is someone who knows the depths of life because they experienced sinking, so a novel or a story is what left on the surface after a life of drowning. It is not enough to have an elegant language, a writer must live the worst life that no one has lived before if they want to write something remarkable.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
What’s found in the river may not be found in the sea. What you can find in a book written by someone far away in their poor country may not be found in your great one. Wisdom and knowledge have no borders, and they have no specific land to grow on.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Ruthfuss.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a text that made me see the rigid tears of my father more than once every time I was reading it to him, that text had this title: Death of The Canary, by May Ziade.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have the bad habit of criticizing things and behaviors, and when they appear in my mind in their caricatural images this makes me laugh, actually for a long while sometimes. What makes me cry are sad scenes like the funeral of Vanissa Ives in Penny Dreadful or the singular sacrifice of Jack in Titanic, such heroism makes me live in mourning for long weeks.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet Mr. John Logan, writer and creator of the series Penny Dreadful . I want to see him talking in front of my eyes to know to which deep areas in Self this great man has reached. I hope this wish will someday be fulfilled.
From the world of the dead I would like to meet William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson for their uniqueness in their times, and the powerful imagination they had, and the matchless musicality in their language.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
(What you look for is in you) I want this phrase to be written on my headstone because these are the words which a mysterious man in my dreams once told me, and when I woke up they were still resounding in my ears, after then, I decided to write the first book in my Trilogy depending on these words that represent the key to the right direction we all should take towards the true salvation from sadness, confusion, and pain.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like swimming, and I like looking from the heights to the angry sea, these are things that I really love and do. Sometimes I write some verse forms for amusement.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch all the shows about magic, witchcraft, religious symbolism, historical fantasy religious history of civilizations, and fiction. I like all the movies that talk about things old, sacred, and mysterious.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I like traditional food, the deep blue color, and the instrumental music, and I listen to epic songs when writing. I spend long hours listening to Enya, my favorite voice.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
A professor of philosophy.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Not yet. I’m found only in Facebook for the moment. Thank you very much.
I hope the first book of his new trilogy will get translated into English. From what I’ve read during this interview, it sounds pretty interesting. I noticed that he mentioned that he uses religious/spiritual overtones on his writing. I’m just wondering if it’ll be something like the Chronicles of Narnia from C. S. Lewis. We’ll never know till we read it, I guess. Thank you for introducing me to a new author, Fiona!
Fahmi Abassi said:
Happy to annonce the publication of the first book of the trilogy: “Ascent of Azariel” under the title: “The Isthmian Rift” from the publishing house of (Shoalet alebdaa) in The Egyptian Arabic Republic, and Which will be attending the International Book Fair in Alexandria at its 14th session that opened the doors Saturday 31 Mars 2018.