Samman, Ghada (1942–)

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Samman, Ghada

Ghada Samman is a Syrian-Lebanese writer.


Samman was born in 1942 in al-Shamiyya, Syria, and moved to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1964. She obtained a BS from The American University of Beirut and Ph.D. in English literature from Cairo University. Samman was briefly arrested and imprisoned by Syrian authorities for alleged political offenses in 1966, and secretly left the country after she was released three months later. She has been living in France since 1984.


Samman is one of the Arab world's most prolific female authors, having published more than thirty books in a variety of genres. Her work has been translated into many languages. She began her career as a journalist and now writes a weekly column for the London-based al-Hawadith magazine. Among her books is al-Raghif Yanbud ka al-Qalb (1975), which exposes political corruption in the Arab world and attacks social inequality, especially the mistreatment of women. Her al-Amal Ghayr al-Kamila (1979) is a multivolume collection of fiction and nonfiction on her travels to various Arab and European capitals, with insightful comparisons on culture, society, and politics.

Samman is also known for her fiction. Her novel Beirut '75 (1974) is a gripping urban narrative that touches upon class divisions, gender inequality, and the selfish rich. It prophetically anticipated the outbreak of violence in Lebanon the following year. Beirut Nightmares (1976) draws from the author's own experiences during the first year of the civil war, when she was trapped for a week near the Beirut hotel district. This sequence of nightmares ranging from the mundane to the surreal is told in a wrenching first-person voice. One of her collections of short stories, The Square Moon (1999), is set mostly in Paris and focuses on cultural conflict and the perspectives of exile.

For decades, she has given voice to Arab women: "The liberated woman is not that modern doll who wears make-up and tasteless clothes…. The liberated woman is a person who believes that she is as human as a man. The liberated woman does not insist on her freedom so as to abuse it," she wrote in 1961. In her many works of fiction and nonfiction, Samman has been a staunch supporter of Arab nationalism and has criticized Zionist and imperialist policies, but she has not shied away from critiquing repressive aspects of her own culture.


Samman is well known internationally as a significant and prolific Arab writer.


It is too early to assess Ghada Samman's lasting legacy.


Cooke, Miriam. War's Other Voices: Women Writers on the Lebanese Civil War. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Zeidan, Joseph. Arab Women Novelists: The Formative Years and Beyond. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

                                               Elise Salem

                           updated by Michael R. Fischbach


Name: Ghada Samman

Birth: 1942, al-Shamiyya, Syria

Nationality: Syrian; lives in France

Education: BS, The American University of Beirut; Ph.D., English literature, Cairo University


  • 1966: Arrested by Syrian government
  • 1974: Publishes Beirut '75
  • 1976: Publishes Beirut Nightmares
  • 1984: Moves to France
  • 1999: Publishes The Square Moon