|Anna and Hassan in Red Desert.|
In my latest interview on Mars Pirate Radio, Doug Turnbull asked me why I chose a Muslim character, Hassan Qabbani, as a sort of foil for Anna Persson, the protagonist. Actually one of the main conflicts in the story is the one between Anna and Hassan.
The reason for introducing this conflict was that I wanted to show something that everybody could understand and in which they could identify. Therefore introducing a Muslim as an ambiguous character was quite an easy choice.
It must be said that Anna is not a heroine, she’s definitely an anti-heroine. She isn’t politically correct. She says and does what most of us sometimes think but would never openly say or do.
At the beginning of the series we see Hassan depicted as a person Anna hates, because he is of Middle Eastern origins. That’s the only reason. Pure prejudice. The consequence is that many readers don’t like him too, because Anna tends to describe the worst of him.
Her hatred against Middle Eastern men is due to the fact that her father, a Middle Eastern and Muslim studying in Sweden, left her mother when he learnt she was pregnant. Growing older, Anna has developed a prejudice against men of her own ethnicity, also because her mother had taught her so.
When Hassan enters her life she is instinctively suspicious about him, but at the same time she is curious.
What she feels is not different from what a typical Western person can feel nowadays, considering the events of these years regarding terrorism, for instance, but also about the issue of women’s rights in the Islamic countries. I mean, there are a lot of reasons which could cause an instinctive prejudice against a Muslim person, especially from a woman, even if this person has nothing to do with the original reason of the prejudice. Our rational mind knows this; we know that our instinct could be wrong and this knowledge brings a natural curiosity towards someone who is different from us.
People are both frightened by and curious about what is different.
And I think it works the other way, too. A typical Middle Eastern person feels this prejudice everyday, and must fight against it. At the same time I think they want to understand it.
So, using such a common issue, even if in a totally different context, I am able to show something very believable to everybody, including myself. And that’s why I think it’s very easy to make the reader be involved in the conflict between Anna and Hassan.
Moreover Anna isn’t a religious person at all, she doesn’t have any faith, while Hassan does, and this is another reason of conflict and curiosity.
This is one of the main themes developed in “Red Desert” and also represents an aspect of Anna that shows a real growth of her character during the series.