Khaled Khalifa, the author whose novels were banned in his home country of Syria, has died at 59, the Guardian reports.
Khalifa, a native of the Syrian village of Maryamin, was educated at the University of Aleppo, where he studied law. A poet and screenwriter, he published his first novel, The Guard of Deception, in 1993; The Gypsies' Notebooks followed seven years later.
He gained praise from critics for his next two novels, In Praise of Hatred and No Knives in the Kitchens of This City. His fifth novel, Death Is Hard Work, was longlisted for the National Book Award for translated literature, as was No One Prayed Over Their Graves, published in the U.S. in July. Both novels were translated by Leri Price.
In a 2019 interview with Electric Literature, Khalifa said that he considered a novel to be “the most effective art form for dismantling the narrative of tyranny and dictatorship.”
“Within it is a large capacity for flexibility and renewal and concealment at the same time, and the novel can become a history that is not the history tyrants always contrive in their books, an often falsified history,” he said.
Admirers of Khalifa paid tribute to him on social media. On X, formerly known as Twitter, journalist and author David Ulin wrote, “RIP to a magnificent writer. I admire not only his work but also his moral stance so much.”
RIP to a magnificent writer. I admire not only his work but also his moral stance so much. https://t.co/cpp0NGIOgN— David Ulin (@davidulin) October 2, 2023
And author Robin Yassin-Kassab posted, “The great Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa has died. He leaves books that will be read so long as there are Syrians. Allah yerhamu.”
Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.