Salah Naoura

Portrait Salah Naoura

Salah Naoura was born in West Berlin in 1964, the son of a Syrian father and a German mother, and grew up in Berlin and Eschborn. He studied German and Scandinavian Studies and, after graduating, moved to Hamburg, where he worked as an editor in a publishing company for children’s books. Since 1995, he has worked as a freelance translator and author of children’s books.

So far, he has translated more than 30 books for children and young adults into German. Salah Naoura’s greatest success is his children’s novel »Matti und Sami und die drei größten Fehler des Universums« (2011, tr.: Matti and Sami and the three biggest mistakes in the universe), which was extremely well received by critics. Naoura tells the tale of 11-year-old Matti, who dreams of a family holiday in his Finnish father’s home country, and, thanks to a lie, manages to make his dream come true. The »FAZ« called it a »modern picaresque novel […] that, with its Pippi Longstocking-inspired ›I make the world they way I want it‹, is a lot of fun, especially with the author’s ability to discover flashes of insight even in the most bizarrely humorous moments«. Despite its light tone, the novel does not shy away from weightier aspects of life. Melancholy nuances and poetic passages interchange with comedy in »Matti und Sami« to tell the story primarily of children whose lies put their regularly overchallenged parents in difficult situations. Anton and his Indian adoptive brother Dilip have similar experiences in »Dilip und der Urknall und was danach bei uns geschah« (2012, tr.: Dilip and the Big Bang, and what happened to us next). In this book, Naoura manages to create various lovingly drawn characters and to insist with situational comedy and sharp wit that both children and parents can and should stand by their strengths and weaknesses. Salah Naoura is often called a »master of warmhearted comedy«, which hardly does his work justice; in his books, tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin and he is sincerely interested in children and their problems, worries, and wishes. Naoura’s precise feeling for the most absurd situations is impressive. In »STAR« (2013), his »first children’s novel for boys and girls aged 11 and up«, a story about sudden fame and its shadow side, he also uses a breakneck, comic style to show how the protagonist liberates himself from the mess.

Naoura has won several prizes for his translations and novels, including the Peter Härtling Prize (2011), the Lynx of the Year (2011), the German Children’s Literature Award for his translation, »Das unvergessene Mantel« (2012) of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s novel »The Unforgotten Coat« (2011), and in 2014 the Leipzig Reading Compass for his children’s book »Hilfe! Ich will hier raus!« (2014; tr. Help! I want out!), whose sequel »Hilfe! Oma kommt zurück!« (tr. Help! Grandma’s coming back!) came out a year later. Salah Naoura lives in Berlin.