23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Mazen Maarouf
© Ali Ghandtschi

Mazen Maarouf

The Palestinian-Icelandic writer, poet, translator, and journalist Mazen Maarouf was born in Beirut in 1978 to Palestinian refugees who had fled Tel al-Zaatar at the start of the Lebanese civil war. He studied chemistry at the Lebanese University, after which he worked as a chemistry and physics teacher for several years. He has been concentrating on writing since 2008. He repeatedly speaks out against repressive regimes and human rights violations in his literary and journalistic work. Following the release of a text about the death of a journalist in 2010, he began receiving death threats and was given permanent status as a writer-in-residence in Reykjavík by the organization ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network) in 2011.

To date, three collections of poems by Maarouf have been translated into several languages. His first collection of short stories appeared in 2015 under the title of »Nukat li-l-musallaḥīn« (Eng. »Jokes for the Gunmen«, 2020). In the style of Roald Dahl and Etgar Keret, he tells twelve stories from a childlike perspective about life in a war zone – all of the tragedy and everyday pain, the violence and the ever-recurring question of life and death, which no one can answer with certainty. Maarouf counters the monstrous brutality of a life in perpetual danger with his narrative style of black humor. »Nukat li-l-musallaḥīn« was awarded the Pan-Arab Literature Prize for short stories Al-Mutaqa in 2016 and was on the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019. The jury called the piece: »A beautifully textured and absurdist gaze on human inventiveness and defiance in the midst of war’s traumas.«

In addition to his work as an author, Maarouf also writes reviews and theater and art critiques for various Arabic-language newspapers and magazines, including »Al-Hayat« (Beirut/London), »Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed« (London), »Al-Ayyam« (West Bank), »Al-Quds-el-Arabi« (London), »Jasad Magazine« (Beirut), and »Qantara« (Paris).  He also works as a literary translator and has translated works by various writers and poets into Arabic, including works by Sjón, Myron Uhlberg, Andri Snær Magnason, and Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir. His works have been translated into numerous languages including German, English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Icelandic, Chinese, Urdo, and Malay. Mazen Maarouf lives in Reykjavík and Beirut.


Ein Witz für ein Leben


Zürich, 2020

[Ü: Larissa Bender]