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Novelist, writer and member of Palestinian PEN, Gharib Asqalani, dies at the age of 74

Wednesday 29 June 2022 - 2:17pm

Photo courtesy of Palestinian PEN

PEN International mourns the death of novelist, writer and member of PEN Palestine, Gharib Asqalani, who passed away last Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the age of 74. PEN International extends its condolences to family, friends and readers of Asqalani.

Gharib Asqalani, whose real name is Ibrahim Abdel-Jabbar Al-Zant, was born in 1948 in the city of Asqalān (Ashkelon) in Palestine, which later became his pen name.

Asqalani obtained a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from Alexandria University in 1969 and a Diploma in Islamic Studies from the Institute of Islamic Research and Studies in Cairo in 1983. He worked as Director of Literary Creativity in the Palestinian Ministry of Culture until he retired in 2004. He was a founding member of the Palestinian Writers Union and PEN Palestine. He also served as Vice President of the Palestinian Writers Union from 1987 to 2005.

Asqalani’s literary repertoire included novels, essays and short stories. Much of his work has been translated internationally including English, French, Russian, German, and Spanish.

His best-known novels included “The Ring,” on the cordon imposed by the Israeli forces on the Shati refugee camp in 1970, “Book of Gaza” and “Nights of the Lunar Months.”

His best-known short stories included "Exiting the Silence", "Tales of Rose Buds," and "The Seagull Heading North." Many of his short stories were published within his complete fiction collection released in 2017.

Asqalani contributed to the Encyclopedia of Modern Palestinian Literature in the United States in Arabic and English, and in 2016 was awarded the Palestinian Medal of Culture, Science and Arts.

“I join the entire PEN International family in mourning the tragic loss of our friend and esteemed writer Gharib Asqalani. Asqalani was an important voice for PEN and the freedom of expression movement in the MENA region and globally. His legacy will live on through his writing, and his contribution to the literary world will not be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.” – Burhan Sonmez, PEN International President.