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by Trevor Klassen – FFWD Weekly

Malka Marom has emerged from the desert, and she is a study in charisma. She strides into her interview smiling with a naked ebullience, resplendent in a thowb – long Bedouin tribal dress – she received from an Arab Bedouin woman of the Sinai desert. That Sinai Bedouin woman likely gave her the elaborate pewter-coloured necklace which adorns her neck, and perhaps too the yellow headband about her temples. Her visitations with the nomadic Bedouins inspired her to write Sulha, her debut novel.

The nearly universal praise of her novel Sulha is reflected in Marom’s sparkling and surprised eyes. Her unpreparedness for the critical enthusiasm complements the uncontrived passages of Sulha.

“Very little was deliberately constructed. I studied Arabic to speak with the Bedouins without a translator,” she says. And I knew the shoreline of the novel but the rest of it came… from…I don’t know… even now. It was as though I was pregnant and had to give birth. And no more than you can choose what kind of child you’re going to have could I choose what kind of book I was going to write. It surprised me, really.”

Marom’s successful career received critical praise and even included a Royal Command Performance in London. I wondered what drove her to the ostensible punishment to compose Sulha, a 14-year labour of nearly 600 pages. Once I heard her speak, however, I understood quickly that it was less a punishment than a labour of mad love.

I ask what she did, when she was not writing and researching, to unwind. It’s an idle question because she insists the book took over everything – not a meal went by that it wasn’t the main topic of conversation, nary a moment was spent focusing upon anything else. She is planning another book, and says this one will be entirely different.

“It will hopefully be shorter and have only two characters – a man and a woman.” She offers a Machiavellian look and both of us erupt in laughter.

She is tremendously busy. Her recording company, EMI, is re-releasing her folk songs. She finds it difficult to balance promotion with writing. “I have to be totally immersed to write. I can walk and chew gum, but I can’t write and promote.”

These pulling responsibilities are in a mild sense representative of sulha, which is one of the few words that means the same in Hebrew and Arabic: “a forgiveness; a reconciliation; a joining, repairing, making whole that which has been torn asunder – peace.”

Marom’s view on sulha is realistic. “Reconciliation is not all peace and love. It is learning to live with conflict, and all of us to a certain degree must do it.”


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