The last few years have witnessed what one critic has called a tsunami of Saudi writing: some 50 to 100 novels published each year, up from five to 10 in years past. That’s partly due to the 2007 release of Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea, a diaristic account of four upper-class young women and their illicit love affairs, set here in the capital. Trashy? Maybe. But also a rare look into a once-forbidden realm of experience, and an undeniable catalyst.
“It’s not good literature,” Ahmed says. “But it did create a lot of controversy and encouraged people to write their own novels.”