Alaa Al Aswany on the Human Element (in Literature and Life)
al Aswany: I think literature means the approach of these values, because in any literature you have two elements. You have the local element in which the writer is using his own experience, daily experience about his own society, his own people, but this local element is not the most important. The most important element is the human element. It’s for the text, literary text, to be able to introduce, to present a human vision of life. And because of this human vision, the text could be readable, understandable and appreciated everywhere. For example, we were talking about the 19th century masters of literature in Russia, like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anton Chekhov, they described the 19th century Russian society. This is the local element which doesn’t exist anymore, you see. But because they were great writers, the human component, the human element in their work is still valid. I mean, you read Chekhov or Dostoevsky and you find characters that they are very similar to people you know here, you see? And after 100 or  years, because the human element will give the real power for a literary text to last, and that’s exactly what they tried to do.
How a writer captures the human element will determine how long a piece of literature will last.
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