- Ghada al-Samman
known=writer, journalist, novelist
livedwhere=Damascus, Beirut, London, Paris, others
Ghada Al Samman Ar: غادة السمّان is an
Arab Syrian writer journalistand novelist born in Damascusin 1942 to a prominent and conservative Damascene family, she is remotely related to Nizar Qabbanithe famous poet. Her father was Dr. Ahmed Al Samman, PhD, a president of the Syrian University. She was deeply influenced by him since her mother died at a very young age.
Her father was both fond of Western literature and
Arabic literatureat the same time; this influenced her deeply and gave her a unique style that combines attributes of both. Nevertheless, she soon was confronted with the conservative Damascene society in which she was raised and lived her early years.
She published her first book of short stories عيناك قدري "“Your Eyes are my Destiny”" in 1962 which was received reasonably well. However, she was lumped at the time with other traditional feminine writers. Her later publications took her out of the tight range of feminist and love novels to much wider social, humanist and physiological extents.
She graduated from the Syrian University in 1963 with a BA in English Literature and left to
Beirutto earn her Masters Degree in Theatre from American University of Beirut; since then she had not returned to Damascus.
In Beirut she worked in
journalismand in 1965 she published her second collection لا بحر في بيروت "“No Sea in Beirut”" in which the effect of her new, now wider experiences are evident. She then traveled around Europeworking as a correspondentand in 1966 published her third collection ليل الغرباء "“Foreigners’ Nights”" reflecting her experiences.
Six-Day Warhad a shock effect on her as it did on many of her generation, this was evident in her famous article احمل عاري إلى لندن "“I Carry My Shame to London”", after that she did not publish any books for six years but her journalistic articles became closer to the social reality and made her popular. The articles she wrote during that period became the source of some of her later publications.
In 1973 she published her fourth collection, رحيل المرافئ القديمة "“The Departure of Old Ports”", considered by some critiques one of the most important of her works. In this collection of short stories she described in a literary fashion the dilemma of the
Arab intellectualof the time and the conflict between his/her thought and actions. She published her first novel, بيروت 75 "“Beirut 75”" around the end of 1974. The novel describes the complex social problems in Beirut and started with a prophecy by one of the characters of the novel, a fortune teller that says: "“I see blood, I see a lot of blood”". A few months later the civil war broke out in Lebanon.
After the publication of two more novels, كوابيس بيروت "“Beirut Nightmares" in 1977, which describes life in civil-war-torn Beirut in the mid-Seventies, and ليلة المليار "“The Eve of Billion”" in 1986, she was referred to as the most prominent modern Arab writer by some critics.
In the late 1960s Ghada married Dr. Bashir Al Daouq, the owner of
Dar Al Tali’apublishing house and had her only son, Hazim, which she named after one of her heroes in "“Foreigner’s Night”". She later made her own publishing house and re-published most of her books, she also gathered all her articles in a series she called الأعمال غير الكاملة "“The Unfinished Works”", up to date she has published fifteen books of it, nine of them are poetry collections. She has stored her unpublished works including many letters in a Swiss bank, which she promises to publish "“when the time is right”".
It is believed that some of her letters many reveal some information about some prominent
Palestinianwriters and poets during the 1960s, of the people her name was linked with are: Nasir eDdin Al Nashashibi, the journalist and Kamal Nasir, the late poet.
In 1993 she caused a scene in the literary and political arenas when she published a collection of love letters written to her by
Ghassan Kanafaniin the sixties when she had a love affair with him, which was no secret at the time. She was condemned for publishing them by some claiming that her intention was to smear the late writer’s reputation and/or to negatively affect the Palestinian Case.
She has also written a few criticism books and translated some of her works to several worldwide languages. Ghada has been living in
Parissince the mid 1980s and regularly writes in an Arabic magazine published in London. She refuses any invitations for TV interviews since she had a bad experience when she was interviewed in Cairoand found out that the interviewer had not read any of her works.
Some of her works include:
* عيناك قدري, “Your Eyes are my Destiny”, short stories, 1962.
* لا بحر في بيروت, “No Sea in Beirut”, short stories, 1965.
* ليل الغرباء, “Foreigners’’ Nights”, short stories, 1966.
* حب, “Love”, poetry, 1973.
* رحيل المرافئ القديمة “The Departure of Old Ports”, short stories, 1973.
* بيروت 75 “Beirut 75”, novel, 1974.
* أعلنت عليك الحب, “I Declare Love Upon You”, poetry, 1976.
* كوابيس بيروت “
Beirut Nightmares”, novel, 1977.
* ليلة المليار “The Eve of Billion”, novel, 1986.
* الرواية المستحيلة: فسيفسا ءدمشقية”The Impossible Novel: Damascene Mosaic”, autobiography, 1997.
* سهرة تنكرية للموتى, “A Costume Party for the Dead”, 2003.
*Translated from the Arabic Wikipedia.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.