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Ghada Assamman: A Profile from the Archives

[Ghada Assamman. Image from the archives of Assafir newspaper.] [Ghada Assamman. Image from the archives of Assafir newspaper.]

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a new series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa.]

Name: Ghada

Known as: Assamman

Father’s name: Ahmad

Mother’s name: Salma Ruwaiha

Date of birth: 1942

Nationality: Syria/Lebanon

Place of birth: Damascus

Category: Author

Profession: Writer

Ghada Assamman

  • Syrian with Lebanese citizenship.
  • She is one of the most famous Arab women writers and the most daring. She left a significant impact on Arabic literature.
  • She was born in 1942 in Ashamiya village, near Damascus.
  • Her father, Ahmad Assaman, was a university professor and the dean of the College of Law. He later served as the minister of education.
  • Her mother: Salma Ruwaiha from Lathqiya.
  • Her brother: Bishr.
  • Her sister: Zulfa.
  • She studied in Lycee French School in Damascus, then moved to Al-Tajheez School where she earned her highschool degree in the science branch. Her father wanted her to become a doctor, but she rebelled against his wish and joined the College of Literature in the English Language department in the University of Damascus.
  • She worked during her university studies in a library and worked also as an English teacher in a highschool in Damascus. She also worked as a lecturer in Damascus University. Additonally she worked as a journalist and prepared programs in the radio.
  • She went to Beirut right after graduation from Damascus University in 1964 and enrolled in the American University in Beirut. She received her MA in 1966 for her thesis about “The Literature of the Absurd.”
  • She lived from 1966 to 1969 moving between Lebanon and European countries and had disputes with her family because of her insistence on personal and financial independence.
  • She was sentenced to three months in prison because she left Syria while still working as an official employee without obtaining prior permission according to Syrian law. She was informed of the default judgment when she was in London. Consequently, she was fired from her work as a reporter for a Lebanese magazine.
  • She started publishing stories in 1960. She published her first story in the Syrian Al-Akhbar newspaper. Then, she started publishing her stories in Arabic newspapers especially in Al-Usboo Al-Arabi Lebanese magazine, until she became the most famous name in the Arab World.
  • She married Dr. Bashir Al-Dauook, owner of Al-Taleea publishing company. They have one son, Hazim.
  • She lived in Beirut in its peak of cultural and architectural prosperity. She was one of the major contributors in cultural activities and became one of the most prominent Arab writers.
  • With the breaking out of the civil war in Lebanon in 1975 and the deterioration of the security situation, she left Beirut to Paris in 1976. She kept visiting Lebanon until she settled permanently in Paris in 1984. She became the writer of the last page of Al-Hawadith Lebanese magazine.
  • In 1993, she stirred a huge outcry in political and literary fields when she published a set of romantic messages written to her by Ghassan Kanafani in the sixties, when they had a publically known intimate relationship at that time.
  • She started a publishing company under the name “Ghada Assamman Publications.”
  • She collected her journalistic articles in a series and called it The Unfinished Works and published it in fifteen volumes. She also has nine poetry books.
  • Her unpublished archive, which is deposited in a Swiss bank, includes many letters.
  • Her works were translated to English, French, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Italian, German, Persian, Yugoslavian and other languages.
  • After the death of her husband in 2007 and the closure of Al-Hawadith magazine in 2011, she went into seclusion in her home in Paris and stopped publishing.

Her writings: Stories

  • "The Departure of Old Ports" (1960)
  • "Your Eyes Are My Destiny" (1962)
  • "The Night of Foreigners" (1966)
  • "The Time of the Other Love" (1978)
  • "The Body as a Travel Bag" (1979)
  • "The Occupied Depths - Al-Amaaq Al-Muhtalla" (1978)
  • "The Square Moon" (1994) 
  • "Beirut 1975" (1975)
  • "The Nightmares of Beirut" (1976)
  • "No Sea in Beirut" (1962)
  • "In the Cold, Absent from Home" (1986)
  • "The Eve of the Billion" (1986)
  • "Wandering inside a Wound" (1988)
  • "The Impossible Novel: Damascene Mosaic" (1997)
  • "A Costume Party for The Dead" (2003)
  • "The Interrogation of a Rebel Woman" (2011)

Other Writings, Articles and Poetry:

  • "Love" (1973)
  • "I Declared Love Upon You" (1976)
  • "The Arrest of a Fleeing Moment" (1978)
  • "Sealing the Memory with Red Wax" (1979)
  • "A Woman Citizen Caught Reading" (1979)
  • "A Swim in the Lake of Satan" (1979)
  • "The Unfinished Works" (1979)
  • "Unrestricted Writings" (1979)
  • "Siren Inside My Head" (1980)
  • "Bread Loaf Beats Like a Heart" (1980)
  • "A.GH Stares" (1980)
  • "The Tribe Interrogates the Murdered Woman" (1981)
  • "I Testify Against the Wind" (1987)
  • "The Antidote" (1991)
  • "The Sea Prosecuting a Fish" (1986)
  • "Love In All My Veins" (1980)
  • "In the Cold, Absent from Home" (1986)
  • "The Lust of Wings" (1995)
  • "A Lover in Inkwell" (1995)
  • "Nostalgic Letters to Jasmine" (1996)

Books about Ghada Assamman

  • Ghada Assamman Without Wings - Ghada Assaman Bila Ajniha, Ghali Shukri (1977)
  • Ghada Assamman: Love and War - Ghada Assamman: Al-hub Walharb, Ilham Ghali (1980)
  • Arab Causes in Ghada Assamman’s Literature - Qadaya Arabia fi Adab Ghada Assamman, Hanan Uda (1980)
  • The Art of the Novel of Ghada Assamman - Al-fan Al-Riwai Enda Ghada Assamman, Abdul Aziz Sabeel (1987)
  • The Emancipation of Women in the Works of Ghada and Simon De Beauvoir - Taharrur Al-maraa abr ‘Amaal Ghada wa Simon De Beauvoir, Najlaa Al-Ikhtiyar (1990)
  • Rebellion and Abidance of Ghada Assamman - Al-tamarrud Waliltizam enda Ghada Assamman, Paula Di Capoa (1991)
  • Ghada Assamman in her Unfinished Works - Ghada Assaman fi ‘Amaliha Ghair Al-Kamila, Abdul Latif Arnaoot (1993)
  • Sex in Ghada Assamman’s Literature - Al-Jins fi Adab Ghada Assamman, Wafiq Gharizi (2011)

Her Positions

  • “I used to write about a homeland that was the master of the house. Now, his grandsons have become beggars on the gates of civilizations.” Asharq Alawsat, 14 November 1995.
  • “A novel does not become impossible until it is written.” Al-Nahar, 25 September 1997.
  • “I am a woman with no masks and freedom is the key to my life.” Al-Watan Al-Arabi, 27 February 1998.
  • “In order to keep writing, I stay flaring, bewildered, wounding and wounded.” Al-Nahar, 19 October 1999.
  • “I am Madam Bovary, I write whatever I like whenever I like and I enjoy committing my sins.” Al-Nahar, 20 November 1999.
  • “I call for the emancipation of women not the suppression of men.” Ashiraa, 13 March 2000.
  • “Love is always amazing, and the most beautiful thing in a man is his whims because it says he is still alive.” Assiyassa, 9 December 2001.
  • “My father protected my wings and I built my future with the stones of the past.” Al-Anwar, 3 March 2002.
  • “Each novel is my own independent adventure. I am an amateur and experimental writer not a professional one, I don’t produce novels from a hatching machine.” Al-Mustaqbal, 18 February 2003.
  • “My home is not where my plane lands, it is the cloud in which my heart lives.” Al-Qabas, 19 July 2005.
  • “Why is it that when we learn how to write we have to learn how to die?” Laha Magazine, 15 June 2008.
  • “Literature is not a chatter, but rather a written word that could stay or get lost in the sand of our routes.” Ashiraa, 5 December 2011.

 [This article was translated from the Arabic by Ali Adeeb AlnaemiClick here for the Arabic text.]

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