23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Ala Hlehel
© Hartwig Klappert

Ala Hlehel

Ala Hlehel (Alaa Hulaihil) was born in Jesh, Galilee in 1974. The Palestinian Israeli studied Scriptwriting in Tel Aviv as well as Communications and Fine Arts at the University of Haifa. Subsequently, was a presenter for a radio station in Haifa, was the establishing editor of two newspapers and was editor-in-chief of »Fasl Al-maqal«.

In addition to theater plays, film and television scripts, and five fiction books, he has written several short stories published in magazines and anthologies and on the Internet, but only some of them have been published in English translation. Hlehel’s realistic, humorous narratives operate within the tradition of Palestinian literature as found in the works of Emile Habibi and Ghassan Kanafani. Emerging from familiar, everyday situations, his texts often develop a parabolic or surreal character, revealing hypocrisy and injustice alongside absurdity, contingency, and transience. The story »My husband is a bus driver«, published in the magazine »Banipal 23« and in the anthology »Unbuttoning the Violin« (2006), is an account of a wife’s ever-increasing disappointment with her marriage, which once held the promise of excitement. The first-person narrative »The Passport« (from the anthology »Madinah«, 2008) shows how the military hostilities between Israel and Lebanon determine everyday reality for civilians and make normality almost impossible. Hlehel portrays the nightmarish but also comic circumstances of the narrator’s vain attempts to extend his passport, which he needs in order to go on a book tour in the UK. The lack of trust between Jews and Palestinians in Israel is the theme of the story »The Bearded Man«, published in World Literature Today. The narrator’s beard, grown with nothing specific in mind, sets in motion a rapid stream of experience based on continual suspicion, live news reports of an attack, and paranoid fantasies that he will receive the blame for it. His last novel, »Au revoir Acre« (2014), deals with the siege of Napoleon Bonaparte on Acre on 1799 and it deconstructs the relationship between east and west.

For his novel »Al-Sirk« (2002; tr: The Circus), Hlehel won the prize of the Qattan Foundation. In 2003, the foundation also honored his short story collection »Qissas li-awqāt al-hāğa« (tr: Stories in Time of Need). That same year, Hlehel took part in the annual international playwrights’ residency at the Royal Court Theatre in London. In 2008, a dramatic reading of his text »Ein ganz ganz treuer Soldat« (tr: A Truly Truly Loyal Soldier) was performed at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin. In 2013, Hlehel, who shares responsibility for Quadita.net, the first Arabic-language website that honors also homosexual literature, signed an international call against the systematic mass surveillance of the digital world. The author lives in Acre in northern Israel.


Kattan Foundation
Ramallah, 2002
Qissas li-awqāt al-hāğa
Dar al-Adab / Kattan Foundation
Beirut, 2003
My Husband is a Busdriver
Banipal 23
London, 2005
Unbuttoning the Violin
[Mit Mansoura Ezz Eldin,
Joumana Haddad, Abed Ismael]
London, 2006
[Ü: Issa J Boullata, Anthony Calderbank, Nada Elzeer,
Marilyn Hacker, Paul Starkey