Qatari authors you need to know about
Qatar is home to a budding literary scene with storytelling an important aspect of the country’s culture. The history of Qatari publishing is a short one, beginning in the second half of the twentieth century but in just a few decades, Qatar has produced many writers of considerable talent — novelists, poets, journalists and playwrights who have found success in Qatar and beyond its borders. Here are five names you need to know about:
Zakiya Mal Allah ‘Abdal-‘Aziz
Zakiya Mal Allah ‘Abdal-‘Aziz is a famous Qatari poet and the first Qatari woman to publish a collection of poems, called Fi Ma‘bad Al-Ashwaq or In the Temple of Desires, in 1985.
Since her first book, Zakiya Mal Allah ‘Abdal-‘Aziz has published eight more volumes of poetry and her work has been translated into Spanish, Urdu, and Turkish. Several of her poems have also been featured in English poetry anthologies.
Shu’a’ and Dalal Khalifa
The Khalifa sisters are renowned for their writing. Born in Doha, they became two of the first Qatari women to publish novels.
Dalal Khalifa is a novelist and playwright. Three of her plays have been published in a collected volume called Insan fi hayz al-wujud, or A Person in the Sphere of Existence in 1995. Her work explores themes of love, suffering and identity. Her latest novel, The Fable of the Lake, has been translated into French.
Shu’a’ Khalifa’s first novel, Al-Ubur Ila Al-Haqiqa or Passage to Truth was written in 1987, but was not published until 1990, alongside her second book. Her novels focus on the theme of Qatari society, both past and present, and the sense of nostalgia that existed before modernisation and the advent of the oil era.
Abdulaziz Mahmoud trained as an engineer, serving in the Qatari Air Force, before becoming a journalist. He worked as the editor of the Doha daily newspaper The Peninsula, it’s Arabic counterpart and Al-Jazeera, before turning his hand to novel-writing.
Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud had been inspired to research Qatari naval history after stumbling upon a manuscript in a British library during his time in the UK.
His first novel Al Qursan or The Corsair, published in 2011, was a work of historical fiction exploring Qatar’s naval history and the story of the famous pirate Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah. The book was a popular bestseller and quickly became one of the most successful novels written by a Qatari writer.
His second novel, The Holy Sail, is another work of naval historical fiction, exploring the relationship between a woman and a tribal leader and the theme of gender equality.
Kaltham Jaber is a groundbreaking and prize-winning Qatari author. Growing up, the daughter of Qatari poet Jaber bin Mohammed Al-Kuwari, was exposed to literature and poetry at a young age and would go on to become the first Qatari woman to publish a collection of short stories in 1978.
Not only has she published short story collections, Kaltham Jaber has also written a book about Qatari history, entitled The Life Cycle in the Qatari Society Tradition, published in 2015.
Kaltham Jaber’s work has often been described as feminist. Her stories revolve around the roles of Qatari women and the various issues facing them in their society. As well as writing fiction, Kaltham Jaber has written impassioned articles in Qatari newspapers about the need for gender equality in the country.
Jamal Fayez is an established Qatari author. He first had a collection of short stories published in 1986 and has been steadily publishing ever since. Jamal Fayez’s work has been widely read outside of Qatar, having been translated into French and English.
He is a writer whose stories focus on the traditional morals, values and principles of Qatari society. His novels, like the novels of many of his contemporaries, focus on the changing nature of Qatari society, and the effects of modernisation. He is a passionate advocate for the preservation of Qatar’s heritage, a theme which is reflected in his literary work.
Jamal Fayez is also a believer in fostering literary talent, and acts as a mentor to young Qatari writers, often leading writing workshops in Doha.
Illustrations: Khadia Ulumbekova