al-Samman, Ghadah 1942-
AL-SAMMAN, Ghadah 1942-
PERSONAL: Born 1942, in Damascus, Syria; married. Education: Graduated from Damascus University; American University of Beirut, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Manshurat Ghada Samman, P.O. Box 111813, Beirut, Lebanon. Agent—c/o Syracuse University Press, 621 Skytop Rd., Suite 110, Syracuse, NY 13244.
CAREER: Novelist, poet, and short story writer; journalist and translator. Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman, Beirut, Lebanon, founder and publisher; Damascus University, Damascus, Syria, teacher for two years; also worked in broadcasting.
AWARDS, HONORS: Award for Arabic literature in translation, University of Arkansas Press, 1995, for Beirut '75, and 1998, for The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales.
Layl al-ghuraba', Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1966.
Hubb, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1973.
Bayrut '75 (novel), 1974, translation by Nancy N. Roberts published as Beirut '75, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AK), 1995.
Aynaka qadari (stories), Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1975, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2000.
La bahr fi Bayrut (stories), Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1975, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1993.
A'lantu 'alayka al-hubb (poems), 1976, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1999.
Kawabis Bayrut, 1977, translation by Nancy N. Roberts published as Beirut Nightmares, Quartet Books (London, England), 1997.
Al-A'mal ghayr al-kamilah (selected works), 14 volumes, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), Volume 1: Zaman al-hubb al-akhar, 1978, Volume 2:Al-Jasad haqibat safar, 1979, Volume 3: Al-Sibahah fi buhayrat al-Shaytan, 1979, Volume 4: Khatm al-dhakirah bi-al-sham' al-ahmar, 1979, Volume 5: I'tiqal lahzah haribah, 1979, Volume 6: Muwatinah mutalabbisah bi-al-qira'ah, 1980, Volume 7: Al-Raghif yanbudu ka-al-qalb, 1980, Volume 8: 'Gh. tatafarras, 1980, Volume 9: Saffarat indhar dakhil ra'si, 1980, Volume 10: Kitabat ghayr multazamah, 1980, Volume 11: Hubb min al-warid ilá al-warid, 1980, Volume 12: Al-Qabilah tastajwib al-qatilah, 1981, Volume 13: Bahr yuhakimu samakah, 1986, Volume 14: Tasakku' dakhil jurh, 1988.
Ghurbah tahta al-sifr, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1986.
Laylat al-milyar (novel), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1986, translation by Nancy N. Roberts published as The Night of the First Billion, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2004.
Al-A'maq al-muhtallah, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1987.
Raheel al-Marafi' al-Kadima (stories), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1992.
Al-Qamar al-murabba': Qisas ghara'ibiyah, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1994, translation by Issa J. Boullata published as The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1998.
'Ashiqah fi mihbarah, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1995.
Shahwat al-ajnihah, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1995.
Rasa'il al-hanin ilá al-yasam, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1996.
Al-Riwayah al-mustahilah: fusayfasa' Dimashqiyah (novel; title means "The Impossible Novel: Damascene Mosaics"), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1997.
Al-Qalb nawras wahid, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1998.
Al-Abadiyah lahzat hubb, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 1999.
Sahrah tanakkuriyah lil-mawtá (novel), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2003.
Al-Raqs ma'a al-bum, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2003.
Ra'shat al-hurriyah, Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2003.
Mouha Kamet Houb (collected works), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2004.
Al Habeeb al Iftiradi (poems), Manshurat Ghadah al-Samman (Beirut, Lebanon), 2005.
Also author of novels, stories and poems.
Samman's books have been translated into ten different languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Ghadah al-Samman, whose name is often transliterated as Ghada Samman, is one of the most notable female authors of the Arab world. Her novels, essays, and poetry often touch on political issues, including the role of women, but she also writes about such universal experiences as love and loss. Samman's work, with its frank and often satirical condemnation of the problems of class and sex in the Arab world, has not been warmly received by the government in her native Lebanon. Because of this censorship, as well as the devastation caused by Lebanon's on-and-off sixteen-year civil war, Samman and her husband eventually moved to Paris, France.
One of Samman's early books was Beirut '75, a novel published in 1974. The book has been hailed by many for its prescient view of the class and sectarian divisions in Lebanese society that broke into the open during an extremely destructive civil war that began in April of 1975. These issues are depicted from the perspectives of five strangers who share a taxi from Damascus to Beirut. Each of the five are running away from or towards something: Farah seeks fame; Yasmeena, a teacher, hopes to escape from boredom; Abu'l-Malla, a poor father, needs to bring home money; Abu Mustafa hopes to bring home his son; and Ta'aan wants to escape from danger brought on by a clan rivalry. To each, Beirut, the glittering, seemingly modern capital of Lebanon, seems like the perfect place to realize their dreams, but each is soon disillusioned. Behind the city's modern facades, all the problems of pre-modern, rural Lebanon still exist. "Each character's story is good, if abbreviated by the length of the novel," a Publishers Weekly critic stated. Calling Beirut '75 a "frighteningly raw novel," Kim Jenson wrote in Al Jadid that the book provides "a short, yet harrowing exposé of the political reality of Beirut at the outset of the civil war."
The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories about Lebanese exiles who have fled to Paris, much as Samman herself did. In the stories, Samman uses the supernatural to emphasize the conflicts that occur when women from Arabic societies discover the freedoms offered in the West. Tensions often arise between these women and their men, who feel threatened or confused by the changes. Samman shows that conflicts can also within an individual woman, sometimes pushing someone into madness. Bonnie Johnston, in a Booklist review, claimed that "Samman shows the true complexity of this gender conflict without blaming either gender." In fact, Samman does not really place blame anywhere; as Christopher McCabe wrote in Al Jadid, "her concern for every woman's (and man's) plight is rooted in her overriding compassion for all human beings facing dilemmas not easily resolved." All her characters, both men and women, also struggle with memories of their old home and of old friends and loves. The ten stories are "narrated with wit, surprise endings, unexpected plot twists, and surrealistic and realistic details, all in a compelling style which does not leave the reader indifferent," wrote Evelyne Accad in a World Literature Today review of The Square Moon.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Buck, Claire, editor, The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, Prentice Hall General Reference (New York, NY), 1992.
Asfour, J. M., When the Words Burn, Cormorant Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992.
Awwad, Hanan, Arab Cause in the Fiction of Ghada Samman, Edition Namaan (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1993.
Zeidan, J. T. Arab Women Novelists, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1995.
Robinson, Lillian S., compiler and editor, Modern Women Writers, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.
Bennani, Ben, Shahrazad's Sisters, Truman State University Press (Kirksville, MO), 2002.
Al Jadid, fall, 1999, Christopher McCabe, review of The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales; winter, 1999, Kim Jensen, review of Beirut '75.
Booklist, December 15, 1998, Bonnie Johnston, review of The Square Moon, p. 727.
Choice, November, 1999, L. K. MacKendrick, review of The Square Moon, p. 203.
Publishers Weekly, July 3, 1995, review of Beirut '75, p. 57.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1999, Evelyne Accad, review of The Square Moon, p. 811.
Arabic News Online,http://www.arabicnews.com/ (July 25, 1997), review of Nostalgia Letters to Jasmine.
Syria Times Online,http://www.teshreen.com/ (March 29, 2003).