On our second journey around the world and in our mission to discover authors from various countries, we land in Saudi Arabia to meet some of its most notable writers.

Abdo Khal

Before becoming a writer, Khal was working as a journalist since 1982. His works, has made him known within and beyond the Arab world. Khal studied political science before becoming a novelist and his works criticise the corruption of the very wealthy in the Arab world. Khal was named as the winner of the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel Spewing Sparks As Big As Castles, which is also translated as She Throws Sparks. The satirical novel, set in a palace, deals with the destructive impact that power and limitless wealth have on life and the environment.

Abdul Rahman Munif

A novelist, short story writer, memoirist, journalist, thinker, and cultural critic. He is considered one of the most significant modern Saudi authors and one of the best in the Arabic language of the 20th century. He is most noted for closely reflecting the political surroundings of his day. He wrote fifteen novels; The Cities of Salt portrays the history of a broad region, depicting the desert oasis of Wadi al-Uyoun as it is transformed and destroyed by the arrival of Western oilmen. His other notable works are; Al-ukhdud (The Trench), Taqasim al-layl wa-al-nahar (Variations on Night and Day), Al-munbatt (The Uprooted), and Badiyat al zulumat (The Desert of Darkness).

His first novel to appear in English was Endings. The translator called it the first Saudi novel translated into English, and hailed its innovative portrayal of rural life and environmental challenges in an Arabic genre which had, until then, focused mostly on urban, middle-class experiences.

Rajaa Al-Sanea

Rajaa Al-Sanea grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the daughter of a family of doctors. She currently lives in Chicago where she is a dental graduate student. She became famous through her novel Girls of Riyadh. The book was first published in Lebanon in 2005 and in English in 2007 and was long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award in 2009.

Raja’a Alem

Alem was born in Mecca. She received her BA in English Literature and worked as a tutor for the Center for Training Kindergarten Teachers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Alem has published several plays, three novels, and a collection of short stories, Nahr al-Hayawan (The Animal River, 1994). She is the recipient of several prestigious international prizes. Her short story “One Thousand Braids and a Governess” has been translated into English and published in “Voices of Change: short stories by Saudi Arabian women writers”. Among her significant work: Khatam, Sayidi Wehadana, Masra Ya Rageeb, Hubba, The Silk Road, and many more novels. Alem was announced joint winner of the 2011 Arabic Booker Prize for her novel The Doves’ Necklace.

Yousef Al-Mohaimeed

Al-Mohaimeed was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and has published several novels and short-story collections in Arabic. His novels include Al-Qaroura (‘The Bottle’), The Dolphin’s Excursion, and Wolves of the Crescent Moon. The latter was published in English by Penguin USA and in French by Actes Sud (both 2007). All of his novels are widely published in the Arab world.

Abdullah Bin Bakheet

Bakheet worked as a journalist for periodicals like Al Yamamah magazine and Al Riyadh and al-Jazirah newspapers. He has also written widely outside journalism, including literary and critical works, and television scripts. His recent novel Street of Affections was longlisted for the 2010 Arabic Booker Prize.

Abdullah Thabit

A poet, novelist and journalist, Thabit studied Arabic literature at King Khaled University, and works as a journalist at the Saudi daily Al-Watan. Thabit has published several volumes of poetry. He has also written a bestselling novel titled Terrorist Number 20 (2006). The book recalls his teenage years as a religious extremist and was inspired in part by Ahmad Alnami, one of the 9/11 hijackers.

Ghazi Abdul Rahman Al Gosaibi

Al Gosaibi was a politician, diplomat, poet, and novelist.  He was one of the best-selling writers in the Arab world, he has published nearly 40 books, most of which were the collections of his poems. His novels were mostly based on the topic of corruption, Arab alienation, love, and the condition of the Arab states. In Freedom Apartment or An Apartment Called Freedom (1994), one of his most known novels, the theme is about the lives of four Bahrainis who left their homes for university education in Cairo in the 1960s. The novel also reflects his own experience in Cairo. Another novel, Sab’ah (2003), is a “satire” and “depicts the Arab reality through seven characters who have different ideas and works, and are flirting with the same woman. A Love Story (2002) narrates the life of a novelist who is dying in a hospital bed, dreaming about the memories of his past love affair with a married woman. Al Gosaibi also published non-fiction books, including an autobiography, entitled Yes, (Saudi) Minister! A lifetime in Administration (1999).

Hamza Bogary

Bogary worked in broadcasting, becoming Director General of Broadcasting; from 1965 to 1967. Of his writings, the best known outside of Arabia is his “lightly fictionalised memoir” Saqifat al-Safa, translated into English as The Sheltered Quarter: “His descriptions of school and family life resemble closely what we know of a male student’s rounds in eighteenth-century Mecca.

Laila Al-Juhani

A novelist and short story writer, Al-Juhani has written a number of short stories and novels. Her debut novel was called Da’iman sayabqa al-hubb (Always Love Will Remain) and was published in the early 1990s. Since then, three further novels have been published: The Barren Paradise (1998), Jahiliyya (Ignorance, 2007), and 40 Fi Ma’ani Ina Akbar (2009). Excerpts from her novels have appeared in English translation in Banipal magazine. The Barren Paradise was also published in a full Italian translation in 2007. She has won awards for her fiction in her native Saudi Arabia but had a limited readership outside its borders as none of her books has been translated into English, until 2014 when Days of Ignorance was translated into English.

Samira Khashoggi

Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian progressive author, as well as the owner and editor-in chief of Alsharkiah magazine.  She wrote under the pseudonym Samirah ‘Daughter of the Arabian Peninsula’. Her books include Wadda’t Amali (Farewell to my Dreams, 1958) “Thekrayāt Dām’ah’ (Tearful Memories, 1963), ‘Wara’ Aldabab’ (Beyond the Cloud, 1971), Qatrat Min ad-Dumu’(Teardrops,1979) and ‘Barīq Aynaik’(The Sparkle of Your Eyes). Since 1972, Al-Sharkiah (the oriental woman) has been the leading monthly pan-Arab women’s magazine. Khashoggi was the first Saudi female publisher and columnist; a dynamic, pioneering and highly respected thinker.

Umaima Al-Khamis

Al-Khamis has published a number of books, including short story collections, children’s books and novels. She has published four short story collections. Her first novel Al-Bahriyat appeared in 2006. It was reprinted seven times and a special edition was printed in Egypt. Her second novel, The Leafy Tree (2008), reached the 2010 IPAF longlist. Saja’s Visit was published in 2013. Her most recent novel, Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate (2017) won the 2018 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. She has published a number of children’s books which have been translated into other languages. Al-Khamis writes a weekly column in Elaph newspaper.