23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Mahmoud Shukair

Mahmoud Shukair was born in Jerusalem in 1941. He studied philosophy and sociology in Damascus. He was arrested by the Israeli authorities in 1974 and, after several months in prison, deported to Lebanon. He later went to Amman. He was only able to return to his home city following the Oslo Agreement of 1993. Shukair was a member of the Palestinian National Council from 1988 to 1998. He worked as an editor for various Palestinian newspapers and journals, including »Dafatir Thaqafiya«, which was published by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture.

Mahmoud Shukair writes scripts, stage plays, children’s books and short stories. He has also written several autobiographical works, which form an important document on recent Palestinian history. An example of this is »Maraya al-ghiyab: Yaumiyat al-huzn wa s-siyasa« (2007; t: The Mirror of Absence: Diaries of Sadness and Politics), which is mainly concerned with his experiences in the Palestinian Communist Party.

Shukair became well-known for his short stories, which have been published in journals and anthologies in translated versions, including English, Korean, and Chinese. A selection appeared in France, entitled »Ma cousine Condoleeza« (2008; t: My Cousin Condoleeza). The Palestinian critic and writer Hassan Khider characterised Shukair’s prose thus: »There are similarities between Mahmoud Shukair’s style and the narratives of the Italian writer, Alessandro Baricco. Both write short texts which recall Chinese ink drawings rather than oil paintings. The drawings are mysterious, transparent, they appear to be amputated, but they inspire the reader’s imagination and there achieve their ultimate form. The language used is extremely sparse, but very poetic.«

Since setting out as a writer in the early 1960s, Shukair has confronted the Palestinian tragedy in his writing: exile, Israeli occupation, self-image and interpersonal relationships. In his later works a trace of irony shimmers through. The clearest example of this is in »Surat Shakira« (Beirut 2003; t: Shakira’s Picture). Mahmoud Shukair lives in Jerusalem.

© international literature festival berlin