Curated by Esra’ AlNaggar
Yemen has given birth to some of the most extinguished writers of the modern time. Those writers have succeeded in both acquiring and reciprocating the power that lies behind the written word. In this piece we feature 6 outstanding Yemeni writers, whose works have been recognized locally and internationally.
Wajdi Muhammad Abduh al-Ahdal is a Yemeni novelist, author of short stories, screenwriter, and dramatist. Born in 1973, he received a degree in literature from Sanaa University. He won the Afif prize for the short story in 1997, a gold medal for a dramatic text in the Festival for Arab Youth in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1998, and the youth prize of the President of the Republic of Yemen for the short story in 1999. He has been an employee of Dar al-Kutub, the National Library in Sanaa.
He has published several collections of short stories: Zahrat al-Abir (“The Passerby’s Flower,” Sanaa, 1997), Surat al-Battal (“Portrait of an Unemployed Man,” Amman, 1998), Ratanat al-Zaman al-Miqmaq (“Gibberish in a Time of Ventriloquism,” Sanaa, 1998), and Harb lam Ya‘alam bi-Wuqu‘iha Ahad (“A War No One Knew About,” Sanaa, 2001). His novels are: Qawarib Jabaliya (“Mountain Boats,” Beirut, 2002), Himar Bayna al-Aghani (“A Donkey in the Choir,” Beirut 2004), Faylasuf al-Kurantina (“Quarantine Philosopher,” Sanaa, 2007), and Bilad bila Sama’ (“A Land Without Sama’[or a Sky],” Sanaa, 2008), which has been published in English translation as A Land Without Jasmine. It was co-winner of the 2013 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Translation. His screenplay Al-Ughniya al-Mashura (“The Enchanted Song” was published in Sanaa in 2006, and his play Al-Suqut min Shurfat al-‘Alam (“Falling off the Balcony of the World”) was published in Sanaa in 2007. Al-Ahdal’s novel “Mountain Boats” proved controversial. An extremist campaign against the book drove him into exile, and the book’s publisher faced charges. When the German Nobel Laureate Günter Grass visited Yemen for a cultural conference in December 2002, he was received by the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to whom he mentioned Wajdi al-Ahdal’s plight. He asked the President to protect the author, and al-Ahdal was then allowed to return to Yemen. AlAhdal is considered one of the best Yemeni Authors and the idol of many Yemeni writers.
Saba Hamzah is a Yemeni writer and poet based in the Netherlands reading a master’s in gender studies at Utrecht University. Her passion in life is Yemeni women’s rights and has dedicated her career to fighting for their rights to live in peace and have equal access to education. She has written for different platforms and magazines where she uniquely merges worldwide art and literature with every day life in Yemen.
Saba had her first book published in 2012 by Dar Alkotob AlYamania. It is a collection of stories about women, race and class and was appreciated by Arab critics and readers. There are several copies of the book in various international libraries including the library of Congress in Washington and Georgetown University. More recently, Saba is waiting for two of her books to be published – a novel in Arabic and a collection of poems in English focusing on women. Furthermore, now a refugee in the Netherlands, Saba works with different organizations to shed light on the ignored war in Yemen and to improve intercultural acceptance of refugees within Dutch society.
Eman Abu Bakr is an e-health programming learner by day, reader by night and also a freelance writer who writes poems and touches what hearts feel which considering why you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Eman has just finished her bachelor’s degree with honours in Business Information Systems from Asia Pacific University, Kuala Lumpur. Eman is best known by her published poetry book Behind the Darkness of her Eyes.
“Behind the darkness of her eyes” is a poetry collection book that hugs within 27 phases of feelings graved in the eyes of every Yemeni woman who receives backlashes when revealing such feelings publicly. The book speaks out what goes through women’s lives, hearts and souls starting with love to pain to nostalgia to heartbreak to the loss of loved ones. In this book, love was not hidden, fear was bravely shown, pain wasn’t shameful to speak of, and all were respected. At the age of 13, Eman dug herself in between novels, poetry and made friendships twice her age as an aim to gain more wisdom, intellectualism, and life experiences Eman found herself being the mirror to all what was hidden within the hearts of all the women eman has known, she have seen many broken hearts that went through pain for years, unable to love again or to believe that their dreams would ever come true. Few years before his untimely death, Eman revealed her collection to her father, who gazed into her eyes and asked “Did you write these poems?” She nodded positively.“You’re such an amazing poet to be and I’m very proud of you! Such writings have to be published one day.” He said, and that is what she did. Behind The Darkness of her Eyes was published in ..
Hanan Yahya AlWadee is a Yemeni novelist and a Human Rights defender. She studied English Literature in Sana’a University. Later, she acquired her MA in Human Rights from London University- UK. Hanan wrote many short stories that were published regionally. Nesf Sahra.. Nesf Sha’r Musafaf (Half an Evening.. Half braided Hair), Mulme’ Shifah (Lip Gloss) “Foras Katheer Lilmot” (many opportunities for Death) are examples of her books. She has also published a study that revolved around “women”. It was translated and published as episodes in the Yemen Times Newspaper. Hanan is most famous for her book Ahzan Eliktronia (Electronic miseries) that was published by Dar Shams Publishing House – Cairo on October 24th, 2013. The story illustrates the beginning of the traumas and sadness that came along the electronic movement that evaded the 21st century. The book was granted Dubai Cultural Award.
Kawthar Abdulwahid AlShureify has started her writing journey since school and continued throughout her higher education. To her, writing is the outlet whenever she feels paralyzed and helpless towards the many illogical conflicts happening in the modern world. Her first book Lawha LilSama’a” (A Portrait to Heaven) was a collection of social stories that concerned the Arab world. It was in her second book Me’ad (A Date), published in 2018, that Kawthar learnt to express herself easily and without complications. In Me’ad, she illustrated the Yemeni society before and after the war. Kawthar was also published in the AUC Times Magazine and Literary Club as well as other online publications. Her next piece will probably be a novel, she has a lot to say and the scope of short story is no longer enough.
Manal Abdulwahid AlShureify majored in Special Education and now works in the field of Educational and Linguistic difficulties. She is very interested in causes related to education and community development. Born to a family who appreciates writing and reading, Manal started her writing journey at the age of 9. It was then when she started exploring issues of Poverty and Justice as well as her own homeland which she moved back to later in her adolescence. In her novel, Nour Zein, Manal tried to highlight the Yemeni identity using samples of Yemeni people from inside and outside Yemen. She also included the effects of immigration on new generations. The idea was inspired by the fact that Yemen is always associated with armed conflicts and poverty with no regard to its rich historical beauty and arts. Manal is trying now to attempt new works such as short stories and articles.