Khaled Khalifa: No Knives in this City’s Kitchens
The novel (Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Literature in 2013) explores the prices paid by Syrians for living parallel to the life of the ruling party for near half a century.
No Knives in this City's Kitchens, which borrowed its title from a speech made by Syrian President Amin Al-Hafez (who ruled from July 1963 to February 1966), freezes the frame on a middle class family that suffers from a plethora of contradictions, as if reproducing the suffering of the city / homeland in its own story. Both are a victims of lost glory, traced through following its members' life paths while they are heading toward death.
[…]The stories of all those mentioned characters intersect with the presence of uncle Nizar, as a close brother to the mother and the reservoir of her teenage secrets. The novel mentions his search for sensual enjoyment entangled with love. The novel portrays a non-stereotypical homosexual, sympathising with his human dilemma. It is not blind to his humanity and his delicate spirit, which faces ostracism. The novel addresses his dreams in a city that drives him away, and where its citizens extract enjoyment from treating him as an outcast. Through building a house in Kasab, in which he restores the magnificence of his city, he reaches a desire for seclusion. (english.ahram.org.eg)
Khalifa’s characters are purely fictional but he says there are many Syrian people who have undergone similar experiences. “You discover after writing your book that these characters really exist and there are various versions of them,” he says. “For example, all of us know a Nizar. He resembles this man.’ That is somehow disappointing. [...] I had a feeling that things cannot go on this way in Syria, because life had stopped long ago... Something must happen.” (dailystar.com.lb).