Author, critic, translator, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Al-Adab magazine Samah Idriss died yesterday in Beirut after recently learning he had cancer. He was 60.
A well-known editor and supporter of Palestinian rights, Idriss was also a celebrated author of vibrant, child-centered picture books and young-adult novels that played with language and told fun, relatable stories.
The son of the late founder of the Dar Al-Adab, Idriss wrote a number of books, including two works of literary criticism, four novels for young people, and nearly a dozen picture books. According to a 2003 interview in the Daily Star Lebanon, the impetus for writing books for children was that his own children didn’t enjoy reading.
As children’s-book author Fatima Sharafeddine said in a 2015 interview, Idriss “was one of the first who revolutionized the language with which you address children. And the first time I wanted to publish, I called him and I said I would like to write in Lebanese like you did, and he answered, ‘But I didn’t write in Lebanese. Re-read the books.’ And then it became clear to me, that he was writing fosha (standardized Arabic) in a very, very simple way.”
Idriss published Qissat Al-Koussa (The Story of the Zucchini) from his Boy from Beirut series in 2004, and in 2005, he published his first novel for adolescents, Al-Maljaa (The Shelter). His Qissat al-Koussa has made many best-of lists, including this list of librarians’ favorites.
Yes, a great loss! A public intellectual with integrity and courage who was considerate and kind to writers and contributors to Al-Adaab! A painful and tragic loss when fewer and fewer Arab intellectuals are taking risks the way Samah Idriss did all his life. Condolences to his wife Kristin Chide and his loved ones.
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