Stephanie Merritt in the Observer interviews Egyptian novelist Alaa al Aswany and discovers the practising dentist draws inspiration (as well as teeth!) from his patients! He gets up at 6a.m. and writes for four hours before going to his dental clinic.
My father was also a novelist and a lawyer. Even Naguib Mahfouz worked for the government until the age of retirement. But now it's not about the money. I work less but I would never give it up because my clinic is my window. I open the window to see people and talk to them and I believe this is very important from the human aspect and the professional aspect as a writer. Patients tell me about their lives, I give them my time, so it's not just about the dental issues. I do care about people and it's very dangerous for a writer to shut himself away.The Yacoubian Building, his second novel, has been a best-seller across the Arab world and translated into 17 languages. It has also been filmed.
His latest novel is Chicago, set in the city where he studied and follows the lives of a group of Arab immigrants.