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:
Farewell to the beautiful #MayMenassa, author of 'قتلت أمي لأحيا' (I Killed My Mother to Live) and longlisted for the 2019 #IPAF 😔 Such a huge loss for Lebanese and Arabic literature 😔https://t.co/4MtmBh5AK8
— Madonna Kalousian 🦉🥄 (@MKalousian) January 19, 2019
Lebanon lost today a remarkable novelist, and a beautiful soul.
May Menassa, thanks for everything you have given to the world of journalism, literature and theater.
Will miss you as a relentless human voice and true intellect in an era of divide & demagoguery. RIP pic.twitter.com/12dnjsPDOG
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) January 19, 2019
Une triste nouvelle en ce jour! May Menassa, journaliste, romancière, critique d'art et une grande dame, nous a quitté. pic.twitter.com/WNH14IVVLE
— Antoine Online (@Antoine_Online) January 20, 2019
La romancière May Menassa n'est plus,décédée à l'âge de 80ans,1emaine après 1subite détérioration de son état de https://t.co/9X7d6xxHH5 journalisre douce jusqu'au bout des ongles nous a quitté sans adieux.Son visage souriant &chaleureux restera à jamais gravé dans mon coeur. pic.twitter.com/rUkaZYPvOU
— May Chidiac مي شدياق (@may_chidiac) January 20, 2019
Read Menassa’s work:
Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women, ed. Roseanne Saad Khalaf