Abd al Rahman Munif (1933-2004) is one of the most prominent Arab novelists of the twentieth century. Some have dubbed him and Naguib Mahfouz “the two great patriarchs of Arab literature in the twentieth century.” Munif established his central position in Arab literature after the publication of his monumental novel Cities of Salt. He wrote twelve other novels (some of which historic novels); two short story collections (The Open Door and Metaphoric Names); and twelve works of nonfiction about literature, politics, and the colonial context of oil economics. His anti-imperialist stance was expressed, among other texts, in a nonfiction book called Iraq: Footnotes on History and Resistance, which retells his own experiences traveling in Iraq after the American invasion of 2003. Munif lived the life of an immigrant. He was born in Amman to an Iraqi mother and Saudi father, and studied in Amman, Baghdad, and Cairo. He attended the University of Cairo and later received a Ph.D. in oil economics from the University of Belgrade (1961). He worked for a Syrian oil company until 1973 and then moved to Beirut and started a career in journalism. That year in Beirut he published his first novel, Trees and The Assassination of Marzuq. In 1981 he moved to Iraq and became the editor of an influential oil economics magazine. In 1984, Munif immigrated to Paris, where he dedicated himself to writing the first part of Cities of Salt. The book was considered critical of the Saudi regime and, as a result, the novel was banned in Saudi Arabia and Munif was declared persona non grata. Until his death in 2004, Munif moved between Beirut and Damascus.
Hassan Blasim is an Iraqi-born author and filmmaker, who write in Arabic. Blasim left to Finland as a refugee in 2004 after getting in trouble when making the film The Wounded Camera in the Kurdish area in northern Iraq. He lives in Finland since. His first collection of short stories, The Madman of Freedom Square, was published in English by Comma Press in 2009. It was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. A heavily edited version of the book was published in Arabic in 2012, and was immediately banned in many Arab countries. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ , was published in English by Comma Press in 2013 and won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014. Both collections have been translated into several languages. His latest collection, The Corpse Exhibition, was published in the US in 2014 by Penguin, nd was selected as one of the Top Ten Books of 2014 by Publishers Weekly. Blasim was described by The Guardian as “perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive.”
Mahmoud Shukair is a Palestinian author. He has been writing short stories since the mid-1960’s. Shukair was born in 1941 in Jerusalem and was raised there. He studied at Damascus University and has an M.A. in Philosophy and Sociology. He has published 45 volumes of works in prose, including nine collections of short stories, 13 books for children, a volume of folk tales, a biography of a city, and a travelogue. In addition, he has written six series for television, four plays, and countless newspaper and magazine articles, in print and online. For many years he worked as a teacher and a journalist; was editor-in-chief of Al-Talia’a (The Vanguard) weekly magazine in 1994-96, and editor-in-chief of Dafatir Thaqafiya (Cultural File) magazine in 1996-2000, while also holding the position as director of literature in the Palestinian Ministry of Culture. He was imprisoned twice by the Israeli authorities, lasting nearly two years, and in 1975 was deported to Lebanon. He lived in Beirut, Amman, and Prague before returning to Jerusalem in 1993, where he resides. His latest work, the novel Praise for the Women of the Family, has been shortlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Talal Abu Shawish is a Palestinian writer. He was born in Nuseirat Refugee Camp in 1967, and is currently Assistant Director of the Boys Preparatory School for Refugees in Gaza. He has published three short story collections – The Rest Are Not For Sale and The Assassination of a Painting (2010), and Goodbye, Dear Prophets (2011) – as well as three novels: We Deserve a Better Death (2012), Middle Eastern Nightmares (2013), and Seasons of Love and Blood (2014). His work has won three awards (The Ministry of Youth and Sports’ Story Competition in 1996 and 1997, and The Italian Sea That Connects Award, 1998). Abu Shawish was President of the Association of New Prospects for Community Development between 2007 and 2011, and is a member of the Palestinian Writers Union.
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