Guest 2013.

Ashur Etwebi [ Libya ]

Ashur Etwebi was born in Libya in 1952. He received his medical degree from Tripoli School of Medicine and his Doctorate degree from University College Galway, Irland, in 1991. Etwebi works as a consultant physician, and is a renowned writer, poet and translator. His first collection of poetry »Qsaed Al-Shorfa» (tr.: Balcony poems) appeared in 1993. Since then, Etwebi has published seven more books of poetry and five volumes of translations and a novel. Several of his works have been translated into English and have been included in several international collections and magazines.

His poems reflect the culture, landscape and history of Libya, and describe everyday life in his home country. Linguistically, however, he has adopted a very innovative approach. He experiments with syntax and phrases, and plays with language, which he composes in ever new ways by extensive use of neologisms. He thus combines the traditional Libyan art of poetry with modern elements. His poems are a tightrope walk, a permanent interplay between reality and illusion. The dreams and visions of his characters encounter facts of and references to everyday life and his works are often characterized by a socio-political dimension. Christopher Merrill, the Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, where Etwebi was a guest in 2006, describes his poem »A Flute That Voices the Spirit’s Moan and the Body’s Lament« as »a prophetic work, composed not long before the Arab Spring, which is at once a surrealist fable, a meditation on the departed, and a series of sketches of an escape route from Qaddafi’s nightmarish regime.« Some characteristics of his poems can also be found in his novel »Dardadeen« (2001) about five young boys. From their perspective the reader gets an idea of life in the old town of Tripoli. The story is told in a single sentence, which covers 113 pages. Since the novel was written in Libyan dialect, and not in Arabic, it has been celebrated as a turning point in the literature of the country. Conservative guardians of the language, however, seriously criticized it.

Etwebi is senior lecturer at the Medical Department of the University of Zawia, and cofinder of Libyan National Cancer Institute, Sabratha. He also established with fellow Libyan writers a literary group: One Hand Clapping. He is a member of the Alliance of Libyan Writers and Intellectuals. In April 2012 he made one of his dreams come true by organizing the first important international festival of literature in Tripoli after the end of the dictatorship. Renowned writers and literary scholars from different parts of the world honoured his invitation. Ashur Etwebi lives in Twebia, 25 kilometres from Tripoli.