The writ­ing process

Friday - - Leisure Books -

The Witch Doc­tor of Umm Suqeim, a 150-page col­lec­tion of short sto­ries from UAE ex­pat Craig Hawes, is a witty, as­tute and evoca­tive glimpse into the many facets of Dubai’s mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety. From deca­dent villa pool par­ties fre­quented by Le­vant rev­ellers, to the taxi driver torn be­tween watch­ing a cricket match and deal­ing with the par­tied­out pas­sen­ger asleep in the back of his car, th­ese re­lat­able, beau­ti­fully crafted in­sights shine a dar­ing light on how old and new, Emi­rati and ex­pat, tra­di­tional and mod­ern, man­age their pre­cip­i­tous bal­ance.

This is the au­thor’s sec­ond foray into the world of fic­tion (he’s also writ­ten ra­dio drama) and it would be no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to call it a ver­bal work of art. With sharp metaphors, in­tri­cate de­tails and as­tute ob­ser­va­tions, Hawes’ prose care­fully unwraps the lives of those Dubai dwellers so of­ten over­looked, tak­ing the reader down a thought-pro­vok­ing road-less-trav­elled.

From hostesses, con­struc­tion work­ers and squad­dies to Shaikhs, busi­ness­men and jour­nal­ists, each au­ton­o­mous story con­fi­dently un­veils the pri­vate world of Dubai’s many na­tion­al­i­ties and com­plex class lev­els. The city’s diver­sity also makes the short story the per­fect for­mat for his mes­sage: “There are so many dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and eth­nic­i­ties liv­ing in Dubai that try­ing to en­com­pass all those things into a novel would be a lit­tle over­whelm­ing,” says Hawes. “The short sto­ries al­low you to fic­tion­ally ad­dress a wide range of char­ac­ters.” Hav­ing orig­i­nally moved to the UAE in 2003, Hawes re­turned to his home­town of Bri­ton Ferry, Wales, in 2007, and be­gan writ­ing his Dubaibased tales six months later. He ini­tially in­tended to pen a cou­ple of short sto­ries for com­pe­ti­tions in the UK “to test the waters and see if I could even write fic­tion,” he ex­plains.

Hav­ing put pen to pa­per as a jour­nal­ist be­fore, he was pleas­antly sur­prised and un­der­stand­ably bol­stered by the judges’ re­ac­tions: three of his short sto­ries went on to scoop awards. Hawes was short­listed for the Bris­tol Short Story Prize 2009, a run­ner-up in the 2010 Rhys Davies

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