the short story project


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.