Carrying the same title of the crime fiction novel written by J. K. Rowling in 2014, The Silkworm was released to the Egyptian literary market a few months ago, shifting attention to the birth of a novice Egyptian writer with a remarkable talent.
The Silkworm is not Heba El-Saghier’s first novel. She published her first short story collection, entitled “14 Portraits”, in collaboration with Noha Hamdy in 2012, but her second publication was the real turning point in El-Saghier’s literary career.
The novel tackles the situation in Egypt prior to the 25 January Revolution. “Through the characters of the novel, their lives, their aims, and the obstacles they face, I’ve tried to capture an image of a frustrated generation with many dreams and little hope. I’ve tried to tell the story of a group of friends along their path towards defining the meaning of life and the puzzling questions of purpose,” she said.
Many things attracted El-Saghier to writing such a novel. One of those reasons was her deep passion for observation. “I like to observe people and events and the interaction between both really closely. Actually, I chose this name for the novel as a metaphor for change. The Silkworm witnesses a lot of changes as it hatches from its cocoon into a silk moth. Then, the caterpillar hatches from its chrysalis into a butterfly,” she added.
However, the preparation for the novel was not an easy task for her as she spent a year and a half on research.
“A writer is a researcher in the first place, or that’s at least what I believe in. The first step was to do some research regarding the topics I wanted to tackle in the novel. Then, I made a detailed profile for each of my characters and the places they had to visit in the novel. I had to describe places I’ve never been to and make them appear as vivid as possible,” she explained.
However, El-Saghier did not intend to input a particular or singular message into readers as they progressed through reading the novel. There is no one message intended for the reader, but rather a series of interconnected meanings. This was a double-edged sword as it raised waves of praise and criticism.
“I do appreciate criticism, because the fact that someone bothers to read and takes notes makes me happy. I received a wide range of feedback from my readers. The things that most of the readers liked about the novel were the novel’s main idea, the vivid description, and the way I was able to portray the main characters,” she said.
“However, some readers did not like the way I chose to structure the narration in my novel, and the way I chose to write about some of my secondary characters,” she added.
El-Saghier plans to release a short story collection soon. “Most of the time, I have this flow of ideas going on around my head, but sitting and writing needs real determination. I usually write short stories every now and then, so I guess my next book will be a book of short stories,” she added.