Suffering Breeds Challenges [Archives:2000/14/Culture]

April 3 2000

Abdullah Ba Wazeer is one of the most prominent figures in Yemen’s literature and art history. He was born in Gayl Ba Wazeer city, Hadramout governorate. This city which is well-known for education and literature was a leader in arts, literature in 40s, 50s and until the end of the 60s. This fact had helped build up the love of education and literature in Abdullah’s soul. He studied in Al-Wosta, a city that was sought for by many people from all neighboring districts. In this city, in one of its education houses that included historians, journalists, artists and poets, our writer has pursued his education. All these circumstances have lead to birth of the illustrious novelists (Abdullah Ba Wazeer). 
Ridhwan Al-Saqqaf of Yemen Times met Mr. Abdullah Ba Wazeer and had this interview with him. 
Q: There is a say (Suffering brings birth to creativeness), however, this creativeness is always limited to the amount talent, experience and knowledge a writer has. What would you say in this regard? 
A: It goes without saying that any experience for any person, whether a writer or an artist, does not materialize from the nowhere. It is a result of continuous work that starts in one’s childhood for the writer is never born a writer even if he was talented. He still has to read to whit his skills. Therefore, the release of my first novel was not born form vacuum it was a product of all my reading during my childhood. The house where I lived was like a library that is full of all sorts of books and literature magazines including children’s books like the series of ” Kamil Al-Kaylani” and “Al-Abrahsi”. This was the library of my uncle, the historian and writer (Sa’aeed Awad Ba Wazeer). In the beginning, I used to take books that I could understand well. Then, gradually I developed my skills that I could comprehend literature books like “One thousand nights and a night”, history novels for Gorgy Zaydan in addition to translated foreign novels. Unfortunately, I had quit all this reading after I finished my 9th grade. My father got sick and I had to find a work in order to be able to bear my family’s responsibilities. I traveled to Aden in 1954. However, despite all the hurdles I face in my life I did not completely stop my studies and I continued reading. In Aden, I came to know the municipality library (lake), which is known now as Miswat. Through this library I learned about Arab literature and the treasures of the world literature. I read books for American writers like Earnest Hemingway, Balzac, Mobsan and Russian writers like Tolstoy, Chickove, Gorky. All these readings aided me in writing my first story in 1961 that I released in Al-Talea’ah newspaper. 
Q: What is the position of short story compared to poem in Yemen? 
A: It is very common in Yemen that all people say poems whether slang or formal. When I was young I wrote poems and I did publish some of them in 1957. However, I then started concentrating on writing short stories. If we were to look at the position of the short story in comparison with poem we would find that the first outweighs the latter. Modern poem does not express the problems of citizens anymore and has become more personal. 
Q: Why did you prefer the pen to the paintbrush and colors with which, as we know, you started your artist career? 
A: In the beginning of the 60s, I have made several art shows when I was in Aden and they were successful. However, I was more influenced by the cultural, social and political activities that were emerging at the time. Aden was preparing for a new phase of national struggle. Parties started demanding the independence of Aden and publics were greatly reacting to the speeches and prints of these parties. At this point, I found that the paintbrush was could not portray my feelings and that colors can express my burning emotions. Therefore, I had this belief that the pen could express through writing what paintbrush and colors cannot. In 1965, I released my first group ” Al-Rimal Al-Dahabiyah” followed by “Thawrat Al-Burkan” in 1968. 
Q: Usually the writer comes across many difficulties and hurdles like everyone, how does this affect his literary product (positively or negatively)? 
A: There is a say that states (Suffering brings birth to creativeness) and it’s completely true. I have had many crises in my life that made me frustrated. I had to leave my studies and go to work when I was still 16. During this stage, I was so attracted to literature and art. I practiced plastic art and played lute which I made myself. When I was 24, I published a handwritten newspaper called ” Al-Ayam”. Unfortunately, I still had to find a job since I did not have a certificate that qualifies me for any governmental position. So, I had to work in trading from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. As a result of this, I had to stay up part of the night in order to satisfy my thirst for literature and art. I used read in some of the nights and paint in others. All this hindrances created a power of challenge and tenacity in my soul. It has also given me inspiration which I would not have gotten if I worked in an office. Mingling with different classes of the society has provided me with raw materials. 
Q: Do you belong to any party or a school? 
A: I am not the kind who committees to a certain trend or literature school. When I write I make my own school which some say it is (Reality). I am one of a generation which did not read so many Arabic and Western novels. However, after reading new books, one can definitely choose whatever trend that suite him best. Personally, I have chosen the ironic style in story writing encouraged by Al-Mazini and Chickove but still I have my own style. 
Q: What do you think of criticism in Yemen? 
A: Literature criticism is not found in Yemen. The story started appearing in Yemen in the 50s and 60s. Still, there was no criticism of literary works and that is the reason the story writing is still retarded. Objective criticism is the sieve which extracts bad works from good ones. There were some voices who started criticizing literary works but they soon quit. Therefore, some story writers started writing about their impressions on other writers. Many Arab writers had written about Yemeni stories like Dr. Abdul Hameed Ibrahim in his book ” Contemporary Yemeni Story” and Salam Aboud who wrote the “Birth and Development of the Yemeni Story”. There are also several articles written by several writers in which they talked about some stories like Dr. Abdul-Aziz Al-Makalih, Abdul-Wadoud Sayf, Dr. Ahmed Al-Hamadani, Mr. Abdullah Elwan and Mr. Hussain Salem Ba Siddeeq. Still, these writings cannot cover all the storybooks. 
Q: What are the titles of the books that you have published and those that you are preparing to publish soon? 
A: My published stories are ” Al-Rimal Al-Dahabyah” first edition in 1965 and second edition in 1982, “Thawrat Al-Burkan” first edition in 1968 and second edition 1983, “Al-Hitha’a” in 1987, “Sokout Tae’er Al-Kashab” 199l, “Mohawalt Igtyal Hilm” 1999. As for novels I have published “Safinat Nouh” short novel in 198l, “Ya Tale’e Al-Fada’a” in 1995 and “Ayam Fi Bomabai” Travelers novel in 1998. Finally, regarding my stories that are still being published, I have a novel “Safinat Nouh” second edition. In addition, I have several stories titled “Hikayat Al-Ams Wa Al-Yawm”, group of stories for children “Hikayat Al-Osfour Al-Sakeer” and a small play titled “Hafalh Ala Dawo’e Al-Kamr”.