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.