Dima Wannous

Portrait Dima Wannous
© Hartwig Klappert

Dima Wannous was born in 1982 in Damascus and is the daughter of the political playwright Saadallah Wannous. She studied French literature in Damascus and at the Sorbonne in Paris and translation in Lyon. Later, she lived in Beirut and worked for various print, online, and radio media outlets, included the daily newspapers »Al-Hayat« and »As-Safir« as well as the Lebanese online magazine »Al-Modon«. She moderated a cultural television program for the Orient News channel and conducted interviews with Syrian oppositionists, among others.

The short story collection »Tafâsîl« (2007; tr: Details) brings together nine consecutively numbered stories that form a panorama of daily life on the eve of the Syrian revolution that began in 2011 – a time marked by »coldness and hardness«, as Wannous later wrote in the book’s foreword. With their insightfulness and ironic-grotesque overtones, the detailed observations of a society in which the majority of the protagonists – from the security officer to the head editor to the taxi driver – act out of servile deference to the regime or from a position of inherited power reveal the level of corrosive isolation that has long pervaded every area of life. In 2008, Wannous published her début novel »Al-Kursi« (tr: The Chair). In her second novel »Al khaifoun« (2017; tr: The Frightened Ones) the narrator, Suleima, unexpectedly receives a manuscript from her once-lover Nassim, who fled to Germany after the war broke out. She recognizes herself in his text, after which she begins to investigate her literary doppelgänger. The similarities, however, actually reveal more about the fractures in her own identity and confront her with the fear that pervades everything. In this way, the injuries suffered over generations are delicately reflected and the limits of the written word are simultaneously revealed in a metapoetic fashion. In retrospect, Wannous compares the six months of writing the novel, which preceded a long period of writer’s block due to the situation in and the distance from her homeland, to psychotherapy sessions in which confusing memories and disconcerting feelings are evoked, such that after finished the book she felt as though she was finally able to breathe again. An English translation is expected in 2019.

The projekt »Beirut39«, initiated by the London magazine for Arabic literature »Banipal« and the Hay Festival in Wales, among others, named her as one of the most promising Arabic authors under 39. In 2018, she was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The author lives with her husband, the journalist Ibrahim Hamidi, in London.