Queer Literature, 2016: Saleem Haddad

Saleem Haddad

Saleem Haddad


Saleem Haddad is a novelist who’s both speaking and reading at the 2016 “Empfindlichkeiten” Literature Festival in Berlin. He was born in Kuwait City in 1983 and is currently living in London. He has a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother.

Saleem’s debut novel „Guapa“  |  Saleem’s web site  |  Wikipedia  |  Twitter


01_The most memorable moment of queerness you’ve encountered in your childhood:

Dressing up as a girl when I was six or seven and telling my brother he had to call me Maya.


02_A queer book that influenced you (how?):

My book has been heavily influenced by queer writers: Colm Toibin, and the way he writes about mothers and their sons, Abdellah Taia’s writings on homosexuality and Morocco, James Baldwin’s „Giovanni’s Room“, the way Christopher Isherwood wrote about Berlin in „Goodbye to Berlin“, the way Andre Aciman wrote so beautifully about desire in „Call Me By Your Name“, and the way Gore Vidal writes about gay alienation in early twentieth century America. So much of my novel owes itself to these works, so I’ve tried to echo and pay homage to these writers in my text.


03_A different piece of queer culture (no book: something else) that influenced you:

The glam rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I first saw the film adaptation in college, and have seems nearly fifty times since. To me it defines the queer experience, and the power of love and self-acceptance. When I first sold my novel to my publishers in New York, my partner and I went to see Hedwig on Broadway. I felt I had finally come full circle in a way. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. I was also heavily influenced by Mashrou‘ Leila, a Lebanese rock band that is unabashedly queer and political. Their music was the perfect soundtrack to my writing.


04_A queer moment you’ve had in Berlin (or anywhere in Germany) that you’ll remember for a long time:

The first pride parade I ever attended was in Berlin in 2006. I was so terrified to be there, and yet so excited at the same time. The weather was so hot, everyone was shirtless, and it was both incredibly sexy and also empowering. So thank you Berlin!


05_Is there a heterosexual ally that you like/value and who you’ve grateful for?

My brother is probably my biggest ally and supporter. He was one of the first people I came out to, and also helped me come out to the rest of my family. From the beginning he stood by me and supported me unconditionally.


06_Is there another guest/author at „Empfindlichkeiten“ you’re particularly looking forward to?

I can’t get enough of Abdellah Taia, his writing is so raw, poetic and honest.


07_Name a queer guilty pleasure you feel passionate about:

RuPaul’s Drag Race. It makes me want to put on a dress throw shade everywhere, and celebrate my queerness.


08_What country/nation, what city, what region, what culture energizes you/teaches you new things about queerness/is big on your „queer map“?

I am inspired by the Middle East– my home. I love the sense of community, and I love how the queer movements there remain fiercely political, linking their struggles with broader struggles for justice and freedom.


09_More and more often, people use intersectionality to discuss identity (and: discrimination). How is intersectionality important/relevant to your art/work?

Intersectionality is very important for me: living in Europe I sometimes feel just as queer for my Arabness as I do for my homosexuality. Exploring these different types of queerness is central to my work. I also think class does not get talked about enough, and as someone who read Gramsci and Marx in college, class is something that always comes through in my writings. I do wish the mainstream LGBT movements in the West increasingly linked their struggles to broader struggles around racism, class and Islamophobia.


10_In mainstream culture, queerness increasingly gets some niches/some space. But then: does queer culture embrace mainstream, too? Does it embrace mainstream TOO MUCH – when it comes to questions of gender norms, family planning, „presentable“ people, consumerism, politics? Where do queerness and „normality“ crash? Do they crash/collide hard enough?

I believe that queerness by its very nature of being queer just stands outside of the mainstream. To paraphrase Foucault: to be critical of things is not to say everything is bad, but rather to say that everything is dangerous. By standing apart from the mainstream, queerness will always be a critical voice that tells us we always have something to do.

[Foucault, in 1983, said: ‚My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to hyper- and pessimistic – activism.‘]


all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: „Empfindlichkeiten“ Festival 2016:

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