Novelist and former President of PEN Jordan Laila Al-Atrash Dies at 73

PEN International mourns the loss of acclaimed Palestinian-Jordanian author, prominent novelist, and head of PEN Jordan, Laila Al-Atrash.

Al-Atrash was born in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, east of Bethlehem, in 1948. She died on Sunday, 17 October 2021, aged 73, leaving behind a wealth of exceptional pieces of literature, as well as exceptional press investigations, television programs, and works of theater. Al-Atrash’s novels and short stories have been translated into several languages, including English, French, Italian, Korean and Hebrew, and some are added to university curriculums in Jordan, France and America.

“The PEN community is mourning the loss of an eminent writer and exceptional novelist. Laila Al-Atrash will be living in our hearts and minds, and we will visit her every day through her writings. Our heart goes out to her family and friends”, said Burhan Sonmez, President of PEN International.

Al-Atrash served as the president of PEN Jordan for the last 12 years, during which she advocated for freedom of expression and promoted literature in Jordan and across the MENA region. Women in the Arab world are at the core of much of Al-Atrash's writing. Her Hymns of Temptation (2014), was on the longlist of the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. She was named one of the few women writers who influenced their societies in the Arab Human Development Report in 2015. She was also a resident of the Iowa International Writers Program. She helped establish the Family Library and Reading for All projects in Jordan in 2007.

After studying Arabic and French literature, Al-Atrash started her media career as a journalist, producer, and presenter of radio and TV programs. She published her work prolifically and won several literary prizes, including the best Jordanian Novel Award in 2010 for The Desires of That Autumn and State Appreciation Prize for Literature in Palestine 2017. She has published a collection of short stories, two plays, and eleven novels, including A Woman of Five Seasons, Two Nights...And a Woman's Shadow, and Women at the Crossroads.