23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Jalal Barjas
© Ali Ghandtschi

Jalal Barjas

Jalal Barjas was born in Hanina, a village near Madaba, Jordan in 1970. He studied aeronautical engineering and worked as an engineer before becoming an editor and later a reporter for various Jordanian newspapers and magazines. In addition to his journalistic work, he has written poetry, short stories, and novels.

His short story »The Earthquakes« (2012) was awarded the Jordanian Rukus ibn Zaʼid ʻUzayzi Prize. His novel »Guillotine of the Dreamer« (2013) won the 2014 Jordanian Rifqa Doudin Prize for Narrative Creativity. »Snakes of Fire« won the 2015 literature prize awarded by the Qatari cultural foundation Katara in the category of unpublished work and was subsequently published in 2016. It is a story about a writer who loses the only photograph of his mother and his recently completed novel manuscript in an apartment fire. Stricken by partial amnesia, he can remember everything except what he wrote. He falls into a depression and has nightly recurring nightmares in which he is attacked by fire snakes. To prevent this, he takes long walks until, in his sleep, the characters of his novel return to him and continue to tell the story. »Women of the Five Senses« (2017) tells of the changes in the Arab world from the perspective of the painter Saraj Ezzedine, who was born with six senses instead of five, emigrates to America on September 11, 2001, and returns to Jordan almost ten years later as a rich man. The novel was nominated for the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in 2019, which Jalal Barjas finally won in 2021 for »Notebooks of the Bookseller«. The novel is set between 1947 and 2019 and weaves together the stories of several characters who have fallen into various forms of hardship. At the centre is the passionate reader Ibrahim, who sometimes takes on the role of his favourite literary heroes himself. Suffering from schizophrenia, he falls into a mental crisis due to adverse circumstances and is on the verge of taking his own life. But then he meets a mysterious woman who is as desperate as he is … » As events unfold, Barjas opens up many surprises for his reader, illustrating through his flawed characters the ruined state and complete emptiness of the world«, said the IPAF jury, which also highlighted the emotional and psychological depth of the novel.

Jalal Barjas is the director of the Jordanian Narrative Laboratory and hosts the radio program »House of the Novel«. He lives in Madaba, Jordan.


Guillotine of the Dreamer

Al Ahlya

Amman, 2013


Snakes of Fire


Doha, 2016


Women of the Five Senses

The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing

Amman, 2017


Notebooks of the Bookseller

The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing

Amman, 2020