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Arab Writers Who Inspired Generations

posted on: Dec 4, 2019

Diana Adjadj/Arab America Contributing Writer

There is no better feeling than being proud of someone from your own culture. When I was at the beginning of my writing career, I would always go back to Arab writers whose writing could change someone’s life. Such power in a simple string of words is something that any Arab can be motivated by.

There are writers whose work has inspired generations and got them to step into the world with an open mind. From feminists to idealists, here are some Arab writers whose name you should know and whose work will get you to absorb every word.

Ghassan Kanafani

Besides his amazing writing abilities, Ghassan was also famous for his political affiliations. He was a Palestinian author as well as one of the leading members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Mixing his political views with writing fiction, Ghassan became a pioneer of Palestinian Resistance Literature.

“I became politically committed because I am a novelist, not the opposite,” Kanafi once said. He felt obligated to write about what surrounds him and use his talent to move people to truly understand what is happening around them.

His novel, Men in the Sun, is considered as one of the most famous fiction novels in Arab literature.

May Ziadeh

May Ziedeh (born as Mary Elias Ziadeh) has had a major part in transforming Arabic literature. This Lebanese-Palestinian poet, essayist, and translator presented a female voice in the early 20th century.

She sought equality for women by questioning norms and cultural values that were stated by a male-dominated society.

One of her impressive and widely quoted passages went like this: “We chant beautiful words in vain; words of freedom and liberty. If you, men of the East, keep the core of slavery in your homes, represented by your wives and daughters, will the children of slaves be free?”

In 1912, May established her own weekly literary salon, where she received male and female intellectuals and literary figures.

A writer and critic Hossam Aql claims that she had a pioneering role in “introducing feminism into Arab culture,” because she was “the first to use the term ‘the women’s cause’… She was the first professional writer to take a critical approach to women’s stories or novels written by Arab women,” says Aql.

Ali Ahmad Said Esber (Adonis)

Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who also goes by his pen name Adonis is considered to be one of the most dominant and influential Arab poets.

The fact that he has been nominated regularly since 1988 for the Nobel Prize in Literature says enough about the quality of his work.

His poetry is dominated by the themes of rebellion, transformation, reform, and exile. He presents a true motivation for many generations who seek freedom of thought.

Adonis is also an inspiration for poets because he goes beyond classic poetic structure and form, and experiments with prose, verse, and meter.

He is recognized internationally and awarded many prestigious prizes such as the Bjørnson Prize by the Norwegian Academy for Literature and Freedom of Expression and Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt.

Nizar Qabbani

A poet, diplomat, and publisher – three simple words that describe this amazing man. However, he was so much more.

Nizar started writing at the age of 16 and he didn’t stop until the very last day.

He is famous for his collections of revolutionary love poetry which inspired generations of Arab musicians and youth.

His work can be found in two dozen volumes of poetry, in contributions to the Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat, as well as in lyrics sung by Syrian and Lebanese vocalists.

The conservative traditions of Arab literature were shaken by “Childhood of a Breast,” his first volume of verse. It was daring, romantic, and erotic.

His sister committed suicide after she denied to be married to a man whom she didn’t love. This tragic event got Nizar to express the importance of social freedoms for women. He even often wrote from a woman’s viewpoint.

Ahlam Mosteghanemi

Ahlam is the first Algerian woman to publish a book in Arabic which is why she has been called “the world’s best-known arabophone woman novelist.”

She has strong feminist opinions and is a strong advocate for freedom and women’s rights.

It is important to mention that Ahlam was the first contemporary Arab author who sold millions of copies. Her work dominated book charts in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, and the UAE for years.

All the inspiring writing brought her the title of UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2016.

Saadallah Wannoush

This Syrian playwright made an impression on the Arabs but he also made his mark on the world.

He studied journalism in Cairo but he later moved to Paris where he got consumed with theater and the stage.

Saadallah used his plays to express social criticism through the relationship between society and the individual. While his plays were often suppressed by the Government, this didn’t stop him.

Even two decades after his death, Wannous’s plays still surprise and creates a relationship with the audience. His work also inspired his daughter to pursue a writing career, and now she is a successful novelist.

Some Final Thoughts

All these amazing men and women have found a way to express their thoughts and opinions through prose and poetry in order to make a difference in the world. By addressing important matters such as freedom, reformation, women’s rights, and oppression by society, these writers have contributed to the progression of the Arab culture. They are a true depiction of how talent and strong opinions can create a wave that can reshape society.



Diana Adjadj is a writer who has a Master’s degree in Marketing. Successful writers from her culture have inspired her to pursue her dream and become a professional writer. Diana works with several prominent writing companies such as BestEssayEducation, WowGrade, and SupremeDissertations. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research and creates thought-provoking content in various fields. Diana also runs her own 3to5Marketing blog.



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