The group of Syrian artists, writers and intellectuals now living in Cairo assembled on Monday to celebrate Khaled Khalifa's latest release La Sakakin Fi Matabekh Hazihi Al Madina (No Knives in this City's Kitchens)
at Dar Al-Ain Publishing House downtown.
Although Khalifa stayed in Damascus due to health problems, Syrian director, Nidal Al-Dibs, insisted on a celebration in Cairo where the book is being published and not in Lebanon, as Sayed Mahmoud, writer and journalist, explained.
The publisher, Fatma El-Boudy, announced that the book arrived on the same day in Syria and Lebanon, as Khalifa had hoped.
The book just published by Dar Al-Ain is Khalifa's second novel, following his renowned Arabic Booker nominee, In Praise of Hatred, written in 2006.
No Knives in this City's Kitchens traces a Syrian family for half a century, during which they struggle to cope with their lost dreams, their collapsing high social life and eventually have to deal with the problems associated with their mother's death, which becomes symbolic of their struggles.
Instead of videoconferencing with the audience, as suggested, Khalifa preferred to keep the hero of the event to be Syria - not himself.
Instead, Khalifa asked the audience in a message to toast, but not to his heroic act of remaining in Damascus, where millions are struggling more than he. He also said he doesn't consider it a sacrifice, or that he is paying even a small price to stay in his beloved country.
"It is as natural as drinking water, much like what you [Egyptians] are doing preparing for your next revolution against the powers of darkness ...I'd like this to be an occasion to express your support - not to me, but to Syrians. Not only through Facebook, but through every possible means," Khalifa beseeched, wishing Egyptians luck in the coming "second revolution," and relaying his appreciation for the warm love he feels from friends who setup the evening.
Al-Dibs recalled when his friendship began with Khalifa as they were preparing to film a movie in Damascus' tiny allies among street children.
Sayed Mahmoud then told the audience the story of Khalifa's first book, In Praise of Hatred, which none of the publishing houses wanted to take the risk to print and prompted the establishment of a new publishing house that only published this book and another by Munzir Masry. Just recently In Praise of Hatred went through its eighth language translation.
Alaa Kamal described this novel's writing style as more mature and concise, stemming from the very heart of Syria, following the same line Khaled started in his first book.
Syrian writer Salama Keila wished that the next meeting with Khalifa be in Damascus.
The attendees recalled bright memories of Syria and Khaled Khalifa, describing his love of life and passion for Syria and his preference to play the role of an observer at a time when those who remained in Syria were mainly fighting or trying to rescue.
Khalifa is a Syrian scenarist and writer from the '80s generation. His writings include a number of famous soap operas, such as Age of Fear and Relative Silence. In Praise of Hatred was banned in Syria. Khalifa is known for supporting the Syrian revolution from day one.