23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Abdel Moneim Ramadan

Abdel Moneim Ramadan was born in Cairo in 1951. He belongs to a generation of writers influenced by Surrealism that struggled against the prevailing, consensual tendency that dominated Arabic literature. Following the publication of his first poems in newspapers in 1972, the poetry collection »Al-Hulm Zil Al-Waqt, Al-Hulm Zil Al-Makan« (1981; t: Dream is the shadow of sleep, dream is the shadow of space) came out in the underground magazine »Aswat« (Voices). Since then Ramadan has published four controversial volumes of poetry: »Qabl Al-Ma’, Qabl Al-Hafah« (1994; t: At the water’s edge), »Limaza Ayuha Al-Madi Tanam fi Hadiqati« (1995; t: Why does the past lie in my garden?), »Ba’idan ‘an Al-Ka’inat« (2000; t: Away from beings) and »Ghariyb ‘Ala Al-‘Aa’ila« (2000; t: Foreigners in the family).

The poems fuse oppositions without unifying them. In particular corporality and religion but also reason and intuition, the self and other, the past and present, high and low culture are presented through a variety of interconnections in monologue-like free verse. The poem »Invocation«, for example, is a contemporary rendering of the bond between the sacred and the profane in the »Song of Solomon«.

Ramadan uses both classical Arabic and Egyptian vernacular in his writing. He dispossesses the poem of its ideological formulae through the use of montage-like juxtapositions of images, evocations, repetitions and echoes of classical works of literature, religious texts and folktales. In an interview with »al-Ahrdm hebdo« he states: »The poet, I believe, does not see more clearly than others. He is not born with the right to speak on behalf of them, about their past and their future. The only knowledge that he poet has is the knowledge of his body. That is the only property which no one can share with him. The only possible way of communicating with others is to convey that which is entirely separate from them, that is, one’s own body. To speak on behalf of ›the people‹, of the passions or joys of a nation, is no longer the poet’s duty. The poet is an individual and not a group, and his text is to divide its readers, not to gather them together.«

Ramadan’s work was included in the 2003 anthology »Méditerranée ombrageuse voyage« (t: Mediterranean, the timid voyage). In 2005 an Egyptian publishing house that reacted to state censorship by publishing e-books on the Internet announced that Ramadan had given permission to have his poems online as digital publications. The author lives in his native city, Cairo.

© international literature festival berlin


Ba’idan ‘an Al-Ka’inat
Al-Mada Press
Damascus, 2000

Ghariyb ‘Ala Al-‘Aa’ila
Tobqal Press
Casablanca, 2000

Übersetzer: Kahlid Al-Maaly, Heribert Becker