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Days of Arabic Literature

The Arab World is undergoing a process of transformation. Literature often reacts with a seismographic intuition to such changes, preparing, analyzing and taking part in social and cultural developments: What visions – utopic and dystopic ones -, what depictions of society do authors develop in their novels, stories, poems? What language do they find for them? How do they situate themselves between newly gained freedom and raising restriction? What are the challenges met by publishers, translators etc.? 

Friday, 26.2

20.00: Diamond Dust, Vertigo and Beat in young Egyptian literature. Reading and discussion with Ahmed Mourad and Wagdy el Komy, moderation: Jennifer Khakshouri.

Saturday, 27.2

11.00: 1001 tales of translating. Workshop and discussion with Hartmut Fähndrich and Larissa Bender, moderation: Susanne Schanda.

14.00: Publishers from Egypt and Lebanon tell about their work. Discussion with Sherif Bakr, Alawiyya Sobh and Karam Youssef, moderation: Hebba Sherif.

16.00: Stories from Damascus: Reading and discussion with Ramy al-Asheq and Rosa Yassin Hassan, moderation: Larissa Bender.

20.00: New music from the Arab World. Presentation, discussion and concert with Thomas Burkhalter, Najat Suleiman and Hassan Taha, moderation: Christina Caprez.

Sunday, 28.2

11.00: Women’s voices. Reading and discussion with Najet Adouani and Alawiyya Sobh, moderation: Natascha Wey.

13.00: Literary Lunch: A bowl of soup with conference guests and the public.

14.30: “Barbarian Spring” in Cairo. Discussion between Swiss author Jonas Lüscher and his translator, Ola Adel, moderation: Martin Ebel.

16.30: What next? Closing panel discussion with Najet Adouani, Ramy al-Asheq, Wagdy el Komy, Rosa Yassin Hassan, Ahmed Mourad, Alawiyya Sobh, moderation: Christina Caprez.


Ola Adel is teaching German Literature and Translation at Ain Shams University, Cairo, she is the director of the Refaa Centre for Formation, Translation and Publication. She is the translator of many literary works from German into Arabic, i.e. from Brigitte Kronauer, Joachim Sartorius, Peter Wawerzinek, Jonas Lüscher.

Najet Adouani , *1956 in Tunisia, author, poet and journalist. Writing for oppositional newspapers, she has been fighting for human rights and freedom of speech, and in 2012 had to leave Tunisia. She lives in Germany.Najet Adouani has published 6 poetry books, the last one, 2015, in a bilingual edition in Arabic and German (“Meerwüste”, Lotos Publishing House). She won the feminine poetry prize 2010.

Ramy al-Asheq, *1989, is a Syrian-Palestinian writer and journalist. He wrote the lyrics for songs that accompanied the Syrian revolution. In 2011 he had to leave Syria and fled to Jordan, where he published his first poetry book in 2014, “Walking on dreams”. Since the end of 2014, he lives in Germany, where he is the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Abwab”, the first magazine in Arabic being published in all of Germany.

Sherif Bakr, *1975, began working in his father’s Al-Arabi publishing house in 1997 and took it over in 2005, together with his sister. He is board member of the Egyptian Publishers’ Association where he is responsible for development and e-books. Together with the GEBO (General Egyptian Book Organization), he initiated "Cairo Calling", a program designed to help foreign publishers find the right contacts at the Cairo International Book Fair and to bring the two sides together.

Larissa Bender has been studying Islamic studies, ethnology, history of art and sociology in Cologne, Berlin and Damascus. She is a translator from Arabic into German, journalist, moderator and lecturer. She has published two books about Syria: “Syria – a difficult path to freedom”, and “Inner perspectives from Syria”.

Thomas Burkhalter, *1973, is an ethnomusicologist, music journalist and cultural producer from Bern. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Norient.com, the Network for local and global sounds and media culture. He is working as a research associate and project leader at the Academy of Arts Berne and the University of Basel (Seminary of Cultural Studies and European Ethnology).

Wagdy el-Komy, *1980, is an Egyptian writer and journalist for the Cairo newspaper “El Youm ElSabea.” He has published short stories and the novels “Very cold at night”, 2008, “Death drinks it black”, 2010, “The Virgins’ dungeon”, 2013 and “Beat“, 2015. He was a guest of Villa Sträuli, Winterthur, in 2014, and of the Literary Colloquium in Berlin in 2015.

Hartmut Fähndrich, *1944, has been a lecturer for Arabic language and cultural history of the Arab world at the university of Zurich, 1978-2014. He was responsible for Arabic literature at the Swiss publishing house Lenos, and was cofounder and director of the Swiss Society for the Middle East and Islamic Cultures. He is a literary translator from Arabic into German (f.e. Gh. Kanafani, E. Habibi, S. Khalifa, E. Nasrallah, E. al-Charrat, S. Ibrahim, S. Bakr, G. al-Ghitani, L. al-Sajjat, I. al-Koni, Raja Alem u.v.a.) , and has received many awards for his translations.

Rosa Yassin-Hassan, *1974, is a Syrian novelist and writer. She studied architecture and worked as a journalist, 2000 she published her first book. Her novels “Ebony” (2004) and “Guardians of the Air” (2009, longlisted for the Arabic Booker Prize) have been translated into German. She received several prices, including the 2004 Prix de la Littérature Arabe. She founded the Syrian Association of Women for Democracy, since 2012, she lives in Germany.

Jonas Lüscher, *1976 in Switzerland, lives in Munich. After working in the German film industry, he studied at the Munich School of Philosophy and in Zurich. His first novel “Barbarian Spring“ was nominated for the Swiss and German Book Award in 2013 and has been translated in several languages, 2015 into Arabic.

Ahmed Mourad, *1978, is a bestselling Egyptian writer, novelist and professional photographer. He studied at the High Institute for Cinema in Cairo, his graduation films achieved many awards. Mourad worked as a personal photographer to Hosni Mubarak. In 2007, he published his first novel, “Vertigo“, in 2010, “Diamond Dust“, followed, then “Blue Elephant“ (2012) and his latest released novel is “1919“. Mourad is one the first Egyptian writers to adapt genres like detective fiction and political thriller.

Alawiyya Sobh, *1955, is a Lebanese writer and novelist. She studied Arabic and English in Beirut and started publishing articles and short stories. She became editor-in-chief of Al-Hasnaa, a popular Arabic women’s magazine, in 1986. In the 1990s, she launched her own women’s magazine and runs it to this day. Sobh has written a number of novels. Her debut novel “Maryam al Hayaka“ (2002, translated into German 2010) was critically acclaimed. “Dunya“ was published in 2006. “It’s Called Love“ was longlisted for the Arabic Booker Prize in 2010.

Najat Suleiman is a Syrian singer, she graduated from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus in 1999, with specialization in singing and percussion. She performed as a soloist with the Arabic Orchestra of the High Institute of Music in Damascus and gave concerts in many European cities. She lives in Switzerland and sings in works of her husband Hassan Taha, together they combine traditional oriental music with Swiss folk songs.

Hassan Taha, *1968, in Homs, Syria, is currently living in Bern, Switzerland. After teaching himself traditional Arabic music, he completed his musical studies in 1998 with both horn and oud instruments at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. In 2003, he studied composition at the Conservatory of Maastricht. In 2012, he obtained a master’s degree at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern. His work has been performed in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Germany and Switzerland.

Karam Youssef, *1966, is publisher and bookshop owner of Al Kotob Khan (founded in 2006). Kotob Khan is mainly publishing young Egyptian authors, but also translations, the bookshop is an important meeting point in Cairo, offering writing classes, readings, film presentations, concerts etc.