Farewell to Beloved and Award-winning Novelist May Menassa, 80

Lebanese novelist and journalist May Menassa — on this year’s longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for her most recent novel, I Killed My Mother in Order to Live, died yesterday of an aneurysm. She was 80:

Menassa was born in Beirut in 1939, sister of the celebrated Lebanese poet Venus Khoury-Ghata, and began her career as a broadcast journalist. She was among the first woman broadcasters in the early days of Lebanese TV and presented the “Women of Today” program.

Although her schooling was in French literature, she made the shift to Arabic. Since 1969, she’s worked as a literary critic at the Lebanese newspaper An Nahar, as well as about women’s fashion for the magazine Jamalouki. She brought out her first novel in Arabic, Pages from Notebooks of a Pomegranate Tree, in 1998 — around the same time that her celebrated sister, Khoury-Ghata, released A House at the Edge of Tears (tr. Marilyn Hacker), which evokes similarly tortured family ties.

Twenty years later, her fifth novel — Walking in the Dust — was among the novels shortlisted for the first-ever International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2008.

She has published 10 novels, as well as children’s books and has worked on many translations. Although her work has won acclaim in French translation, a book-length work has not made it into English.

Many remembered her not just for her novels, but also for her kindness, and there were a number of tributes online:

Read Menassa’s work:

An excerpt from Walking in the Dust, tr. Paula Haydar (at Banipal)

Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Womened. Roseanne Saad Khalaf