International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist Profiles: Maha Hassan

Maha Hassan is a Syrian-Kurdish journalist and two-time novelist who has been banned from publishing in Syria since 2000. When asked why in an interview with IRIN, Hassan said:

I was writing on the three taboos – politics, sex and religion. If I do not write on these topics, what’s left to write about?

Hassan has been living in exile in France since 2004, after increasing threats, she said, made her fear for her safety. In 2005, Hassan received a Hellman/Hammett grant for persecuted writers.

Hassan writes in The Power of Culture about female Arab authors and the Scheherazade image. I am a bit confused by the use of “feminist” in the quote below, although perhaps she is “anti-feminist” in the vein of Joumanah Haddad:

In the world of Arabic culture, the male still is omnipresent; it is his view which takes centre stage, despite the struggle of female writers to assert their views. The main question therefore is: can the female Arabic writer continue to exist in the world of writing, a world which has historically been governed by men, without falling into the trap of being either feminist or mannish?

Hassan hasn’t updated her blog (French and Arabic) since the summer, but you can see her old posts here.

According to IPAF organizers, Umbilical Cord can be summed up thusly:

Umbilical Cord contrasts life in Syria and France through the story of a mother and daughter. After her marriage in Syria, the daughter finds she must return to France to pursue a life of freedom that she cannot achieve in her homeland.

Interview with Hassan

Maha Hassan: Multiple identities not such a bad thing

Reviews and Excerpts

The Secret Rope


تراتيل العدم

Al Quds Al Arabi

Previously profiled: Egyptian Miral al-Tahawy, longlisted for her Brooklyn Heights, Bensalam Himmich,  for My Tormentor, Fawaz Haddad, for God’s Soldiers, Khairy Shalaby, for Istasia, Raja Alem for The Doves’ Necklace, Renee Hayek for A Short Life, and Waciny Laredj for The Andalucian House. See the full longlist here.