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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Writing Love

Khalil Sweileh

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To purchase Writing Love

Title: Writing Love
Author: Khalil Sweileh
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 148 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Writing Love - US
Writing Love - UK
Writing Love - Canada
Writing Love - India

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably well-done playful metatextual novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The National . 18/8/2012 Scott Esposito

  From the Reviews:
  • "In its very palpable search for a plot, Writing Love intuits how great books can impose themselves on one's life story. (...) Such material might easily become pompous or ponderous, but it is tempered here by the comic irony of the narrator's voice. Sweileh has wisely given his protagonist an endearingly vain confidence in his romantic and literary abilities, which gives rise to numerous delightful gags. (...) At length, Writing Love is a pleasant, but hardly necessary, stroll through the familiar terrain of the aesthetic life. There will be much here to please sympathetic readers, but little that will remain after the book has been closed." - Scott Esposito, The National

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of Writing Love focuses on two ambitions: writing a novel, and finding love. He does so with both great confidence and considerable ambivalence, announcing early on: "I admit it, I am not a novelist". Part of the ambivalence arises out of the fact that both literature and love can be approached actively -- writing, seducing -- and passively -- reading, imagining and dreaming (rather than pursuing) love -- and the narrator isn't entirely sure how he wants to go about either. He is a voracious reader, and he associates with writers, but isn't sure about his own efforts. Similarly, he tries his best seductive Don Juan imitation, but much of the time seems to find more satisfaction in fantasy and in his actual dreams.
       The narrator tries to combine writing and love, too. He tries to seduce with writing -- that of others, and his own. He values literature highly and so also he tries to woo with writing; that there's a point where he's trying to decide between appropriate Isabel Allende novels with which to properly impress an object of his desire shouldn't be held entirely against him (though it may be hard not to ...). (That he finally settles on Vargas Llosa's In Praise of the Stepmother is slightly redeeming, but would suggest he doesn't have an entirely firm grasp on the art of literary (in the form of book-giving) seduction .....)
       Throughout, fact and the fiction he is trying to create mix and overlap. As he explains to one woman regarding another who is a character in (t)his novel:

"She's merely an imagined character. But as you well know, there's neither pure imagination nor absolute truth for novelists."
       (Note also the here he is willing to label himself as a 'novelist', after his earlier express claim that he was not one.)
       Considering both his own writing, and his reading (and his different reactions to that reading) he concludes he: "would have to acknowledge that life is a story that has no end". Acceptance of life as fiction-like also leads him to see fiction as life-like -- in the sense of having a life of its own, of being out of control of even of the hands of the person writing it. His novel, and his life, are only to a limited sense under his control: he tries to shape them, but finds them nevertheless also determined by things which he can not control.
       Early on already he writes down: "notes related to the section on love side-by-side with my notes on how to write the novel" -- but finds himself:
confused between all the narrative techniques: Marquez's advice; Italo Calvino's recommendations; the madness of Milan Kundera; Borge's ravings; the seductiveness of A Thousand and One Nights; Balzac's realism; the naturalism of Emile Zola; al-Hamadhani's maqamat.
       Part of the appeal of Writing Love is this sense of his flailing about -- in love as in writing -- and applying these various techniques. In part, Sweileh disappoints in not committing entirely to such an approach: Writing Love uses other literary texts, but beyond a moderately interesting East-West mix, doesn't venture too far (and allows, for example, the work of Isabel Allende a prominent place) Still, this makes for an accessible work, and it does suffice for his purposes.
       This novel about writing this novel is a reasonably enjoyable variation on a not particularly novel concept. It helps that Sweileh doesn't stretch the material too far, the novel clocking in at a very reasonable 150 pages. The characters are interesting -- the women (Lumia, Morning Glory, and Salwa) in how they shift under his hands, and the narrator in how he veers between cockiness and uncertainty -- and it's all quite entertaining enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 August 2012

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Writing Love: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Syrian author Khalil Sweileh (خليل صويلح) was born in 1959.

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© 2012 the complete review

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