A look back at a few authors, translators, and publishers who left us in 2021:
Ibrahim Ishaq (1946-2021)
The Sudanese Writers Union said, in a statement, that the late Ishaq had “built a wide literary reputation with distinct, innovative novels new to Sudan, and in which he presented new technical images from Western Sudan. Ishaq dug deep into his local environment of Western Sudan. In addition, Ishaq’s narrative had touched the Sudanese conscience with a language quite unique and special.”
Lokman Slim (1962-2021)
Prominent Lebanese publisher, filmmaker, researcher, organizer, and commentator Lokman Slim was murdered at the age of 59. He co-founded Dar al-Jadeed, a prominent publishing house, in 1990. It has brought out both nonfiction, such as translations of writings by Muhammad Khatami, and literary works by Inaam Kachachi, Rasha al-Ameer, and Mahmoud Darwish. In 2004, he co-founded Umam Documentation & Research, a non-profit based in Haret Hreik that brings together archival documents, mostly related to Lebanon, although also including the broader region, as with their MENA Prison Forum project. He also co-directed the films Massacre (2015) and Tadmor (2016).
Mourid Barghouti (1944-2021)
The prolific and beloved Palestinian poet and memoirist Mourid Barghouti — widower of the great Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour (1946-2014) — died on February 14, 2021. He was 76. He published two memoirs and more than a dozen collections of poems. A collection of his work, Midnight and Other Poems, was translated by Ashour.
Nawal El Saadawi (1931-2021)
Egyptian author, activist, and physician Nawal El Saadawi was one of the most widely translated Arab authors of the twentieth century. Scholar Maya Mikdashi remembered her “loud laugh & her eyes were like fire,” adding, “She was, like all people who shook worlds, impossible to capture[.]” She was remembered by Mona Eltahawy in The Guardian; her work was also spotlighted in a special episode of BULAQ.
Inaya Jaber (1958-2021)
Jaber, who was born in Beirut in 1958, had a rich career in the arts and journalism. A well-known singer and graduate of the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music, she also worked as a journalist for over twenty years for As-Safir and Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and published nine collections of poetry, her first in 1994.
Saadi Youssef (1934-2021)
A central figure in twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century Arabic poetry, Youssef was born a village near Basra in 1934 and graduated from the Teacher’s College in Baghdad. He started writing poetry at the age of 17 and went on to publish more than 40 collections of poetry, as well as a volume of short stories, two novels, several essays, and several volumes of his collected works. Twice exiled from Iraq — once in the 1950s and again in the 1960s — he went on to live in many countries in the Mashreq, the Maghreb, and Europe, including Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, and France, finally settling in the UK in 1999. He also translated major international poets and writers from English into Arabic, including poetry by Walt Whitman and C P Cavafy, as well as prose by Ngugi wa Thiongo, Wole Soyinka, Kenzaburō Ōe, and George Orwell.
Lamia Abbas Amara (1929-2021)
Lamia Abbas Amara was from a poetic family — she was cousin to the well-known Iraqi poet Abdul Razak Abdul Wahed — and she started writing poetry while a young teen. She graduated from Baghdad’s Higher Teacher’s College in 1950 and, for many years, taught Arabic. Her three most widely read poetry collections are: The Empty Corner, I Am Iraqi, and Had the Fortune-teller Told Me.
Ghazi Al-Haddad (1961-2021)
Ghazi Al-Haddad (1961-2021), the great Bahraini poet, died on Wednesday 23 June. Like many of Bahrain’s most prolific poets, he was best known for his Hussaini poetry marking the occasions, struggles and martyrdoms that are central to Shi’a Islam, for which he will be best remembered. Yet he also wrote well-known revolutionary poems during Bahrain’s 1990s intifada and poems powerfully asserting the marginalized Bahrani identity.
Mohammed Taha al-Gaddal (1951-2021)
Mohammed Taha al-Gaddal (b.1951) first came to the attention of the Sudanese literary scene in the mid-1980s, as an audacious and passionate spoken-word poet with a distinctive style, rich aesthetic quality, and gripping performances. This won him a prominent seat among Sudanese poets, especially those who write in the Sudanese dialect and have enthralling oral poetic performances, such as Mahjoub Sharief, Himmaid, and Azhari. Al-Gaddal went on to make an enormous contribution to Sudanese poetry, helping shape a poetic tradition that keenly digs into the challenges and sufferings of everyday life and gives voice to the neglected, disadvantaged, and downtrodden.
Eisa Al Hilo (1940-2021)
Eisa Al-Hilo (b.1940) made a discernible mark on the literary landscape in Sudan. His engaging and densely textured narrations — with its deft characterization, perfect pacing, and poetic quality — has carved a unique stylistic imprint that has traveled down generations. His fictionalization struck a chord with readers and critics and deservedly drew accolades from both.
Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021)
Douaihy was not only as a gifted stylist and humorist, author of polyphonic multi-layered narratives — most particularly his insightful June Rain (translated to English by Paula Haydar) — but as a kind and generous mentor, open with his time, willing to answer questions from marginal critics and emerging writers. The multi-award-winning novelist earned his PhD in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne and worked as a professor of French literature at the Lebanese University in Beirut.
Fares Sassine (1947-2021)
Publisher Fares Sassine, according to Karim Bitar, was, “A brilliant, erudite professor of philosophy, historian and publisher, Fares had started writing an authoritative biography of his longtime companion Ghassan Tueni. RIP dear friends.”
Laila Al-Atrash (1948-2021)
Laila Al-Atrash studied Arabic and French literatures, as well as the law, and started her media career as a journalist, then as producer and presenter of radio and TV programs. She began publishing literary works in 1988, and her second novel A Woman of Five Seasons, was published in Nura Halwani and Christopher Tingley’s co-translation in 2001.
Humphrey Davies (1947-2021)
As Rana Issa wrote in her tribute to Humphrey: “For us readers of Arabic that are thirsty for a more inclusive canon that has room for queers, peers, poors, boors, mamas and other sisters, Humphrey’s translations have been central in planting the idea that such a canon does exist and that our search will yield some exciting results, as his search so far has done.” Visit our digital memorial at arablit.org/humphrey/.
Etel Adnan (1925-2021)
The great Etel Adnan was a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist of major importance to literary and visual arts in the twentieth and early twenty-first century.
Edwin Nasr writes about her in “Knowing Etel Adnan,” published in Mada Masr.
Mahmoud El Lozy (1958-2021)
American University in Cairo professor, translator, playwright, actor, and director Mahmoud El Lozy started writing plays in the late 1990s, and wrote both in Arabic and in English, often focused around the issue of censorship. El Lozy was also translator of Tawfiq al-Hakim’s People of the Cave; in 2013, he participated in the Center for Translation Studies series of translation talks, speaking about “Translating for the Stage: Opportunities and Limitations.” His mother acted in the theater, and his daughter is the acclaimed film star Yosra El Lozy.
Samah Idriss (1961-2021)
Author, critic, translator, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Al-Adab magazine Samah Idriss was not only a well-known editor and supporter of Palestinian rights, he was also a celebrated author of vibrant, child-centered picture books and young-adult novels that played with language and told fun, relatable stories.