Syrian-Palestinian writer Ramy al-Asheq has two book-length works forthcoming in English translation in the next year:
Al-Asheq was raised in Yarmouk, the largest camp of displaced Palestinians in Syria, and was forced into a second exile after his participation in the 2011 uprising. He was arrested in 2011 and put into a Syrian regime prison. When released, he fled to Jordan, where he was jailed again. In 2014, he was awarded a writing fellowship by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and has since settled in Germany.
In February 2015, al-Asheq was awarded a prize for young authors from Al-Qattan Foundation (Ramallah) for his poetry collection In My Traveling Clothes (لابس تياب السفر), and, in 2016, he published Ever Since I Didn’t Die (مذ لم أمت), a collection of prose texts written between 2014 and 2016.
“If I remember correctly,” translator Levi Thompson said over email, “I came across Ramy on Twitter, or maybe it was Facebook, sometime in 2017. This was just a few years after Ramy had made his way from Syria to Germany, where he still lives.”
Thompson is the translator of al-Asheq’s poetry collection, My Heart Became a Bomb, forthcoming from University of Texas Press in January 2021, and editor of Ever Since I Did Not Die, forthcoming from Seagull Books in September 2020, translated by Isis Nusair.
Thompson said that both works “stand out because they take shape in between the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where Ramy grew up, Bashar al-Assad’s prisons that Ramy was released from, and Germany where he is attempting to find a new home. We of course hear about the refugee experience in Europe quite a bit in the international media, but rarely do we get to read first-hand accounts like Ramy’s, accounts that bring us into the liminal in-between space in which he has found himself.”
Although al-Asheq has two books available in German translation, this will be the first in English.
“The situation in Syria for the past decade has been complicated and confounding, and Ramy’s work emerges out of this confusion not to give us solutions but instead to bring us into it as well,” Thompson said. “I believe that many readers of English really ought to spend some time there with him and his young, unique poetic voice.”
From the Summer 2019 issue of ArabLit Quarterly, al-Asheq’s “In the Sea’s Playground,” tr. Thompson: