23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad was born in Beirut in 1970. The multi-lingual poet, journalist and translator also works as a performer and visual artist. In 1997, she began to work for the prestigious Lebanese newspaper »An Nahar« where she is currently head of the culture section. She had published her first collection of poems two years earlier and has since brought out four further collections. Haddad’s works have been translated into many languages including English, French, Spanish, Italian and Polish.  Two collections are available in German: »Damit ich abreisen kann« (2006; t: So that I Can Depart) and »Liliths Wiederkehr« (2008; t: Lilith’s Return). Her first collection in English, »Invitation to a Secret Feast« was published in 2008.

Haddad’s language belongs to the tradition of modern Arabic poetry.  At times experimental in their choice of poetic techniques, the poems deal with female desire, which in many cases expresses a strong sense of rebellion, takes a delight in being provocative  and  invariably pursues freedom.  However, her poems never turn into the truimphant gesture of a manifesto.. There is, rather, a sense of  defiance, at times sadness,  heard in phrases such as »I do not sin enough«. The final  lines of the poem »I am a woman« read: »The key to the prison may be their tongue, / But their tongue is twisted around my desire’s fingers, / And my desire they can never command. / I am a woman. / They think they own my freedom. / I let them think so, / And I happen«. In the short story »Living it up (and down) in Beirut« (2008), the war-torn reality of the Lebanese capital forces its way into the text through long footnotes, eventually nipping  several romances in the bud. This is commented on in several footnotes almost with a sense of annoyance; one reads: »A word of warning::  once again, this is not a love story. It might, at times, look like one, but it’s not.« The story – written in English – is Haddad’s contribution to »Madinah« (2008), an anthology she edited that is made up of ten contemporary stories on cities written by different authors from the Middle-East.

In 2006, Haddad published a collection of interviews containing conversations with well-known writers such as Umberto Eco, Paul Auster, José Saramago, Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek, Paulo Coelho, Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer. She was awarded the Arab Press Prize in Dubai for her interview with Mario Vargas Llosa. In 2008, she launched the controversial quarterly magazine »Yasad« (Body) which specialises in the body. As editor-in-chief, she seeks to initiate a revival of the tradition of erotic literature in Arab countries.

Haddad has translated many works of international literature into Arabic and Arabic-language poetry into the Romance languages, including  an anthology of modern Lebanese poems that was published in Spain. She is the administrator of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which was inspired by the  Booker Prize and is awarded in Abu Dhabi. Haddad lives in Beirut.

© international literature festival berlin