23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Abed Ismael

Abed Ismael was born in 1963 in Latakia, a port on the Syrian Mediterranean coast where he spent his childhood and youth, before completing his high school education in Damascus. He studied English language and literature at the university in Damascus. In 1990 he went to the USA to continue his studies on a Fulbright scholarship at New York University. Following his master’s degree (in 1991, with a paper on Ibsen’s drama) he obtained his doctorate three years later with a thesis on Wallace Stevens. In 1996 he returned to Syria, since when he worked as assistant professor for modern American poetry at Damascus University. Alongside this, he also works as editor and presenter of the English-language programme on Syrian television. He has translated several books from English, including works by Noam Chomsky, Harold Bloom and V.S. Naipaul. For years now he has been recognised as a leading literary critics. He writes regularly for various Arabic-language literary journals and newspapers such as »al-Hayat« (London) and »al-Safir« (Beirut), as well as for »Banipal« (London), the English-language magazine for Arab literature. Abed Ismael was among  the most important voices in Syrian prose poetry in the 1990s. This generation of young poets around the literary journal »Alif«, for which Abed Ismael was a correspondent in his New York years, was in search of new and experimental paths in writing, and developed new impulses for a fresh perspective on their own literary tradition, under the influence of poetry and theoretical approaches to literature from outside the Arab world.

Abed Ismael has published five collections of poetry since 1998. They are characterized by dark colours which exude human pain. The poem appears as a place of dreams, and his voice, shifting between the first person and other narrative perspectives, conveys a sense of the profound isolation of an individual who retreats from society for self protection  and to avoid the enormous demands placed on them.

His latest collection of poems, »Lam‘u sarab« (2006, tr: Mirage Glimmering), consists of eighty-two short verses, entitled ›Voices‹. Abed Ismael tries, in his own words, »to rehabilitate the illusion […] to glorify the chimaera as one of the forms of freedom«.

A series of his poems are available in French and English translation. In 2006 he was invited to present his poetry as part of the Educational Partnership programme of Ohio State University (USA) as well as during the »Banipal« Live Tour  in England and Scotland. Abed Ismael lives in Damascus.

© international literature festival berlin


Tawaf al-Afil
Dar al-Kunuz al-Adabiyya
Beirut, 1998

Bi-ittijahi matahin akhar
Dar al-Kunuz al-Adabiyya
Beirut, 1999

Lan ukallima al-‘asifa
Dar al-Kunuz al-Adabiyya
Beirut, 2000

Sa‘atu raml
Dar al-Kunuz al-Adabiyya /
Beirut/Damaskus, 2003

Lam‘u sarab
Dar al-Takwin
Beirut/Damaskus, 2006

Unbuttoning the Violin
(poems and short stories,
with Mansoura Ezz Eldin,
Joumana Haddad,
Ala Hlehel)
Banipal Press
London, 2006
[Ü: Issa J Boullata, Anthony
Calderbank, Nada Elzeer,
Marilyn Hacker, Paul Starkey]


Issa J Boullata, Anthony Calderbank, Nada Elzeer, Marilyn Hacker, Paul Starkey