23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Sara Al Jarwan
© Hartwig Klappert

Sara Al Jarwan

Sara Al Jarwan was born in the Emirate of Ajman, in the United Arab Emirates in 1969. She began writing at an early age, but her literary career first took off as a member of the UAE armed forces, which she joined just before the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War, where she wrote »Yawmiyaat Mujannada« (tr: The diary of a female recruit), which appeared in the well-known Arabic magazine »Zahrat Al Khalij« and wrote a play on the role of the woman in the UAE army. Working as editor on the official magazine of the armed forces »Dara‘ Al Watan« led to television appearances, encouraging local ladies to join the Army to defend their country and to join other jobs to serve their community. Later she travelled to Egypt as part of the UAE diplomatic mission to that country. After that she worked as an editor and media coordinator at the General Institute for Islamic Affairs and Religious Endowments.
Al Jarwan’s first novel, »Shajan Bint Al Qadar Al Hazin« (tr: The melancholy of the daughter of a sad destiny) was published in 1992. But was actually written in 1984, so it was officially declared to be the first novel written by a local female author. It was eleven years later that she published her next work, a short story collection, »Ayqounat Al Hilm« (2003, tr: The dream’s icon) and a novel, »Risa’il ’Ila Al Sultan« (2003 tr: Letters to the Sultan). The dominant theme of her work is the relationship between women and social custom in the contemporary United Arab Emirates with marriage and its attendant obligations and sacrifices of particular interest. The localism of her writing, deploying often obscure dialect terms to describe implements, customs and topography, has attracted comment on the Emirati literary scene. She has described it as a way »to give a flavor of the place and the people« while telling the story »of a nation amongst nations, a state amongst states, and of one people amongst many«. Her thematic interests found their fullest expression in »Turous ’Ila Moulay Al-Sultan, Al-Kitab Al-Awwal« (2009 tr: Letters to My Lord The Sultan, Part One), a book that won her widespread acclaim and critical recognition in the wider Arab world. Eight years in the writing, and spanning the first half of the twentieth century, this epic work weaves the multi-generational history of an Emirati Bedouin family with the foundation and growth of the United Arab Emirates and represents a culmination of her interest in social and feminist concerns. Most recently she has issued a collection of Emirati folk tales, where each tale is told separately in classical Arabic and Emirati dialect, and a novel, »‘Udhraa’ wa Wali wa Saahir« (2011 tr: A Virgin, A Saint and a Magician).
Al Jarwan has won a number of awards and honours for her work, including Best Emirati Writing for her 2003 short story collection »Ayqounat Al Hilm. Currently she is resident of Abu Dhabi, UAE.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Shajan Bint Al Qadar Al Hazin
Sharjah, 1992

Ayqounat Al Hilm
Dar Al-Shurooq
Amman, 2003

Risa’il ’Ila Al Sultan
Dar Al-Shurooq
Amman, 2003

Turous ’Ila Moulay Al-Sultan, Al-Kitab Al-Awwal
Dar Al-Adab
Beirut, 2009

‘Udhraa’ wa Wali wa Saahir
Arab Scientific Publishers Inc
Beirut, 2011