The great twentieth-century Syrian novelist Hanna Mina — scribe of suffering and joy — said farewell today, according to Syrian state media, following a long illness:
Mina, co-founder of the Arab Writers Union in Syria, wrote more than 40 acclaimed novels, chronicling the injustices of the twentieth century.
In the announcement, the Syrian news agency passed along Mina’s apparent wishes not to be mourned, saying that he had lived a full life.
He was born in Latakia in 1924 while Syria was under French mandate, and his Fragments of Memory: A Story of a Syrian Family is a beautiful semi-autobiographical depiction of poverty in that era, translated by Olive E. Kenny and Lorne Kenny. He was deeply interested in human suffering. He also wrote many novels about the sea, one of the sources of his passion and inspiration.
He described himself as a scribe of “human suffering and joy.”
Mina saw great swings in the fate of his country over the course of his 94 years. After independence in 1946, Mina moved to Beirut, and later to Damascus. There, he worked as a journalist and, to cover his expenses, also worked as a barber.
He has been awarded a number of literary prizes, including the Arab Writer’s Prize in 2005 and the Mohammed Zafzaf Prize in 2010 (“given to Mina is recognition of his importance as one of the most prominent pioneers of Arab Literature”).
Mina’s The Sail and the Storm was the book of his that made the “best 105 Arabic books list,” as voted by the Arab Writers Union. It is not available in English. But, in addition to Fragments of Memory, there is also Mina’s Sun on a Cloudy Day available in English, translated by Bassam K. Frangieh. Other prominent novels of his include his first work, Blue Lanterns, (published in 1954) and The End of a Brave Man and The Swamp.
He is being mourned widely on social media: