23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Ashur Etwebi
© Hartwig Klappert

Ashur Etwebi

Ashur Etwebi was born in Libya in 1952. He completed his medical degree in Tripoli and, in 1991, received his doctorate degree from University College Galway, Ireland. 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, five volumes of translations, and a novel. Several of his works have been translated into English and have been included in 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 the extensive use of neologisms. He thus combines the traditional Libyan art of poetry with modern elements. His poems are a tightrope walk, a continuous 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, that is at once a surrealist fable, a meditation on the departed, and a sketch 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 that extends across 113 pages. Since the novel was written in Libyan dialect, rather than in Classical Arabic, it has been celebrated as a turning point in the literature of the country. Conservative guardians of the language, however, criticized it severely. A selection of his poems appeared in English translation in 2011: »Poems from Above the Hill«.

Etwebi is Senior Lecturer at the Medical Department of the University of Zawia, cofounder of the Libyan National Cancer Institute, Sabratha, and 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 international festival of literature in Tripoli after the end of the dictatorship. Renowned writers and literary scholars from different parts of the world honored his invitation. In 2015, Ashur Etwebi is a guest author in Trondheim, where he is translating Norwegian poems into Arabic.


Qsaed Al-Shorfa


Kairo, 1993

Asdiqaoka Maro Min Huna

Markaz Alhadara Al Arabiya

Kairo, 2002


Markaz Alhadara Al Arabiya

Kairo, 2001

Poems From Above the Hill

Selected Poems

Parlor Press

Anderson, SC, 2011

[Ü: Brenda Hillman / Diallah Haidar]



Zawia, 2012