Najem Wali is an Iraqi writer and journalist. He was born in 1956 in Amara, in eastern Iraq. After graduating from high school, he began studying German literature at Baghdad University and after completing his studies in 1978, he was drafted into the army. During his military service Wali was arrested and tortured as a “dissenter” and “opponent of war”. A miracle made him come clear and he continued to serve in the army until his discharge in August 1980. Soon after his release, the Iraq-Iran War began and Wali decided to leave his country in order not to enlist. Although his name appeared on the list of citizens whose exit was forbidden, he managed to obtain an exit visa and moved to West Germany, where he continued to study German language and literature and completed a master’s degree. Wali began writing at a young age. He wrote his first story at the age of 16 and started working as a journalist in the Baghdad radio when he was a university student. His novel Tel Al-Laham was published by Carl Hanser in 2004 and by DTV in 2010 and became a best seller and a cult book in the Gulf states. He has published six more novels and three books of stories. His work has won several awards, including the Bruno Krisky Prize 2014 for a political book. Wali lives in Berlin, works as an author and as a journalist and cultural reporter for the daily Al-Hayat, Al-Maeda and The Tattoo Magazine, the three most prestigious newspapers in Iraq. Wally also writes for German newspapers such as Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, among others.
*Author’s official site.
Mortada Gzar is an Iraqi novelist, filmmaker, and visual artist. Born in Kuwait in 1982, he has an engineering degree from the University of Baghdad, and has been a participant of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has written, directed and produced a number of films that have screened at international festivals. His animation ‘Language’ won the Doha Film Award. He is the author of three novels: Broom of Paradise (2008), Sayyid Asghar Akbar (2013), and My Beautiful Cult (2016), and is a regular contributor to the Lebanese newspaper al-Safir al-Arabiandis.
Sheikha Hussein Helawy is a Bedouin writer, poet and educator. She was born in an unrecognized village near Haifa in 1968, and attended the Nazareth Nuns High School in Haifa. She then moved to Jaffa and studied for a BA and MA in Arabic and Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University. She has been teaching and instructing and developing teaching programs, and in recent years she has been teaching and leading change processes in schools in East Jerusalem. Her poems and stories were published in magazines and literary websites in Israel and in the Arab world. She has published one book of poetry and two collections of short stories. Her third collection of stories will be published in 2018.
Gibran Khalil Gibran was an American-Lebanese author, poet, and artist. He was born in the village of Bsharri in Lebanon in 1883 to a poor family. At the age of twelve, he immigrated with his mother and siblings to the USA, where he studied English and painting. At the age of fourteen, he returned to Lebanon to improve his Arabic. In 1908 he traveled to Paris and studied painting with the renowned painter and sculptor Auguste Rodin. Four years later, he moved to New York, where he dedicated his time to painting and writing. At first, Gibran wrote in Arabic, but from 1918 onward he shifted to writing in English. He translated his own works from English into Arabic and vice versa. Alongside poems, he also wrote collections of stories and fables, the most famous of which is the collection The Prophet, which was highly influential in American popular culture during the 60’s and was translated into more than 20 languages. Gibran died in the US in 1931 from Cirrhosis of the liver.
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.