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Critic and writer Aziza Al-Taei: I have become closer to the concerns and conditions of the Arab intellectual

This dialogue leads us with Dr. Aziza Al-Taei, a specialist in modern literary criticism, and a university professor who writes in the art of interpreting literary works, as well as writing stories and novels. Poetry, especially since she is the daughter of the late Omani writer Abdullah Al-Taie, who is a poet and fighter against British colonialism.

#Aziza Al-Taei, as a critic and member of the jury for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2023, how was your experience with the nominated novels regarding their human and intellectual issues?

The Arabic novel began to take its various paths to enter the worlds of humanity, with its themes of intellectual, cultural, social and historical issues that form the backbone of the development of life and its problems. And my experience as a member of the poker jury is an experience that has clear dimensions, as it opened a wide window for me with ideas, issues and names, and I became closer to the concerns and conditions of the Arab intellectual. I was rightly honored to be trusted by the Board of Trustees of the Award; This enabled me to get acquainted with the mechanism of work, and earned me the accuracy, objectivity, and rigor of examining the texts, according to criteria that we as a group relied on from the beginning. Not to mention the harmony that the committee contained, and the acceptance of opinion and the other opinion in order to differentiate between works. Therefore, I am very grateful for this experience, which opened a worthy cultural and reading door for me to continue the research and writing path together.

#Which modern literary books were the most influential in your scientific career, starting with Umberto Eco and Roland Barthes, passing through Taha Hussein, to Cleito…?

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Were it not for all of these, I would not have been able to be who I am now, and I still see myself as a student in the sky of knowledge, and the breadth of criticism for each and every one of the Arab and non-Arab researchers and critics who established schools for them with what they raised of issues, visions and aesthetics on which the researcher relies, starting from the Russian formalists, and even structuralism Existentialism, social and cultural, and I learned about myself from all of these in the various stages of my formation. I draw according to my need from the theory that I need while delving into a literary text (whether poetry or narrative) (long or short) (fictional or reference). I learned from “Umberto Eco” to search and strive and leave it all to time, and I learned from “Roland Barthe” the diversity of reading and the combination of philosophy and criticism that gives the researcher a deeper insight, and I learned from “Taha Hussein” not to get carried away or surrender to the ready-made idea, no matter how disapproved it may be, and I learned from “Abdel-Fattah Kleito” diligence may lead you to certainty to enrich thought, and I learned from “Gerard Genet” the importance of looking at the thresholds surrounding the text; There are others, through my reading of them, from whom I learned a lot in my journey with criticism.

Why do you think critics go to the field of novels and writing in them?

From my humble point of view, the critic, poet, or storyteller may go to the genre of the novel to write about it; The fact that this narrative gender gives its writer a lot of latitude, freedom, and openness to human crises, life anxieties, and perhaps to deeper issues related to our life being; Therefore, I see that this genre, from which new types of narratives began to form, benefiting from both prose and poetry, is a bakery for man’s social concerns, an informant for his intellectual issues, and a fertile ground in which the critic plows what he tried to imprison when reading and evaluating works.

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# And as a poet, and as a critic, do you claim your story is flying and free in the sky of the text without prejudice, or do you confront it later as a critic?

About myself, when I write, I search for my freedom, my stillness, my vision, and my convictions. The idea comes, inhabits my soul and lives in my being, it haunts me for months, and I do not exaggerate – if I say years – and when it ferments in my mind like dough waiting to be pushed into the oven, I feel the madness of my life, and I search for freedom that suits me, to get rid of that urgent and disturbing idea that lived with me and stuck with me, so I leave The idea is freedom of emancipation towards the gender of your choice.

After a long time, poets feel the feeling of restoring their poetic journey. Do you support the poet’s writing of his poetic biography?

The presence of the self and its translation in an accomplished path, whatever the genre in which it is written, is included in the creator’s product; Considering that “self-literature”, with its various types, constitutes the focus of the self, and its disclosure; But the question – here – is about the poetic biography that took a lively path and a remarkable presence among poets. Especially those who pursue writing free poetry, or prose poem. Perhaps this confirms to us the artistic cross-pollination of the literary genres and their organic blending in new templates that give the text an artistic dimension and an openness worthy of study and attention.

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# You are the daughter of the poet Abdullah Al-Taie, who is known for his struggle against the British colonialists. Have you ever thought of writing his deep and long biography?

Abdullah Al-Taie, for me, is a spiritual figure that I was not aware of, and I wished I had sat with her, listened to her dialogues, and listened to her vision; As for thinking about writing his biography and exploring the depths of his thoughts and stances, it is an apprehension for me until now, but it never crossed my mind one day.

# Where does Aziza Al-Tai find herself, in poetry, novels, criticism, children’s literature…?

Very difficult question. Like someone asking a mother about: Which path does she choose for her children, or which children are most beloved to her?! I leave the answer to those who read my works, or wrote about them. However, there is no objection to revealing my feelings regarding my interaction with what I write, because by virtue of my studies, my specialization, and my readings, I find myself in literary criticism (analyzing, interpreting, and researching). By virtue of my inclinations and hobbies, I find myself in the idea that attends and leads me to the direction that leads me to psychological peace and reconciliation with myself, and by virtue of my motherhood I relive my childhood with children’s literature.