Khaled Khalifa [ Syria ]
Guest of the ilb 2009
Khaled Khalifa was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1964. He studied law at Aleppo University and was co-founder and co-editor of the literary journal »Alif«, a critical forum for experimental writing. In the early 1980s he was a member of the »Literary Forum« at Aleppo University, a group from which many major poets emerged. At the end of the 80s he abandoned poetry in favour of writing novels. Since the publication of his first novel in 1993 he has written two further novels, and numerous scripts for films and television series which have been adapted by renowned Syrian directors.
His first novel »Haris al-khadi’a« (1993; t: Guardians of Corruption) was described by the author as an act of emancipation from the founding fathers of the Arabic novel. The first experience planted the seed for the break with all forms of the Arabic novel including typical elements like the poetic use of language and antiquated concepts of place and time. This break, and the search for an individual voice, are characteristics of all of his novels.
His second novel »Dafatir al-gurbat« (2000; t: The Books of the Gypsies) draws the reader into a world that is both mythical and real by means of the author’s elegant style, which goes beyond realism, and his narration, which evades dialogue. The third novel »Madih al-karahiya« (2006; t: In Praise Of Hatred) was on the short-list for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. In the jury’s estimation, the novel was »the story of the experience of twin repression under the shadow of fundamentalist organisations within a society in which there is no democracy, told through multi-faceted language and characters which stand torn before the questions the future holds«. The plot, which revolves around a middle-class family in the carpet business in Aleppo, is set in the early 1980s, a time of serious conflict between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the government. The granddaughter tells her family’s history and the transformation of their views from moderate to fundamentalist in a city in which the cohabitation of different confessions and nationalities was always a fact of existence. The girl, influenced by these new fundamentalist attitudes, encounters members of other confessions and political convictions in prison, and learns at once to become more open to those she had previously considered enemies and to overcome confessional oppositions.
Khaled Khalifa’s scripts have been awarded many prizes. In 2007 he was a guest on the renowned International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He is currently working on his next novel, »Hayat muwaziya« (t: Parallel Life). Khaled Khalifa lives in Damascus.
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