We look back at a few of the influential authors whose deaths we marked in 2022.
Moroccan author Driss El Khouri died in his home in Salé. He was 83. Born in 1939, El Khoury worked first as a journalist and, in Casablanca, became close friends with influential Moroccan authors Muhammad Zafzaf and Mohamed Choukri. El Khoury joined the Moroccan Writers Union in 1968 and began publishing short stories in the 1970s. Like Zafzaf, El Khoury was interested in the lives of the marginalized and in pushing the boundaries of the short-story form.
The legendary Iraqi poet Muthaffar Al-Nawab passed away on May 20, 2022 after a battle with illness. As Zeena Faulk wrote in her tribute to the poet, “In Iraq, the reaction was mournfully comical: a presidential aircraft sent to retrieve a body, a parade of sign-carrying youth mourning the eighty-eight-year-old, a former Prime Minister fleeing an angry, shoe-throwing mob, and a current Prime Minister kicked out of a funeral procession. Such contradictory signs of pent-up energy and enthusiasm were decades in the making. The mourners paid homage to the survival of a two-times-exiled, sentenced-to-death crafter of words whose poems became rallying cries for their expressions of dreams deferred.”
Ghareeb Asqalani, a Palestinian novelist and short-story writer who Atef Abu Saif called a representative of “the generation that founded the short story in Gaza in the 1970s and 1980s,” died in Gaza. Abu Saif included one of Asqalani’s short stories, “A White Flower for David,” in the anthology Book of Gaza, published by Comma Press. Abu Saif also wrote in the introduction to The Book of Gaza that Asqalani’s message, in that story, seems to be that: “Humans cannot forsake their humanity.”
Translator Trever LeGassick died after battling cancer. He was 86. LeGassick, one of the early translators of Arabic literature into English, was the first translator of Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley (later translated by Humphrey Davies), co-translator of Emile Habibi’s The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist, with Salma Khadra Jayyusi, as well as works by Sahar Khalifeh, Halim Barakat, Yusuf Idris, and others.
The Syrian writer and dramatist Ghassan al-Jibai, acclaimed author of works that included The General’s Coffee and Banana Fingers, died in early August. After studying theater in Ukraine, al-Jibai returned to Syria, where he was imprisoned for a decade. Once released, he taught theater in Damascus, yet was banned off and on from teaching at the university, including after expressing support for protesters in 2011. His writing often returned to the subject of Syria’s notorious prisons. He appears in Hala Mohammad’s 2006 documentary Journey into Memory. Ghada Alatrash shared a translation of the author’s “Nails” in celebration of the author’s life and work.
Egyptian novelist and short-story writer Bahaa Taher, winner of the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction, died in October at the age of 87. Although he later became known for his acclaimed and well-loved novels, he told journalist Mohga Hassib that the short story is “the highest form of narrative and is closest in its narrative to poetry. Because it requires the same intensification as poetry and the same talent as poetry in order to say a lot of things in a very limited timeline.” Still, it was through his novels that Taher became one of the most widely read authors of his generation. In 1998, he received the Egyptian State Award of Merit in Literature, and in 2000 he was awarded the prestigious Italian Guiseppe Acerbi prize for his widely acclaimed Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery. In 2008, he won the first-ever International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his Sunset Oasis.
Yemeni poet Abdul Aziz Al-Maqaleh died last month in Sana’a; he was 85. Al-Maqaleh was author of more than 15 poetry collections. Among his best-known are Sana’a by all Means, A Letter to Saif Bin Dhi Yazen, The Return of Wadhah Al-Yemen, Papers of a Body Returning from Death, The Alphabet of the Soul, and Sana’a. He also published a number of literary studies, such as A Reading of Yemeni Literature and The Crisis of the Arabic Poem. According to Zaid al-Alaya, writing in the now-defunct Yemen Observer, “Critics say that the simplicity of his words and the abundant meaning that they carry give his poetry a power that penetrates the hearts of people. The main focus of his poems is the state of the average person. His poetry is a spontaneous overflowing of powerful emotions, all recollected in tranquility in the eloquent Arabic language.”
This list is not intended to be comprehensive. If you would like to see someone added to this list, please let us know.
dont you hear about the great syrian novelist : KHAIRY ALZAHABY..HIS BOOKS PUBLISHED AROUND THE WORLD …THANKS
One of the most important Arab novelists, he wrote more than forty books during his career on novels, history and literary theory… His novels have been translated into many languages. He passed away in July 2022, in France.
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