Huzama Habayeb

Huzama Habayeb is an award-winning Palestinian novelist, short story writer and poet. As a second-generation Palestinian refugee, she was born and raised in Kuwait, where she graduated from Kuwait University in 1987 with a B.A. in English Language and Literature. After the eruption of the first Gulf War in 1990, Habayeb fled Kuwait to Jordan, where she began to establish her reputation as a short story writer. In 1992, she published her first short story collection, Arrajul Al-lathi Yatakarrar (The Man Who Recurs), for which she was awarded Youth Innovation Prize in Short Story. Her second short story collection, Attufahat Alba’eeda (The Faraway Apples) was published in 1994, receiving critical praise. In the same year, Habayeb received Mahmoud Seif Eddin ِAl-Erani Award for Short Story — the highest award from the Jordanian Writers Society (JWS) — in recognition of her outstanding contribution to short story. In 1997, Habayeb published her third short story collection, Shaklon Lel-Gheyab (A Form of Absence), which further cemented her status as a prominent short story writer in the Palestineian-Jordanian literary scene of the nineties. Her fourth short story collection Laylon Ahla (Sweeter Night) was published in 2002. Habayeb had her first novel Assl Alhawa (The Root of Passion) published in 2007, receiving rave reviews. In 2011, her second novel Qabla An Tanama Al Malekah (Before the Queen Falls Asleep) was published. It is described by some critics as an epic novel that exposes the intricacies of the Palestinian diaspora. The novel was among The Guardian’s 2012 “Books of the Year” list. In January 2016, she had her third novel Mukhmal (Velvet) published. The novel, which is Habayeb’s most prominent work to date, won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, one of the most highly prestigious literary awards in the Arab World, in 2017. The award committee described Velvet as a “new kind of Palestinian novel…It is not about the political cause, the resistance, the dream of return. It is rather about ordinary Palestinians, whose life goes on meanwhile, unnoticed and unrecorded, in the background, while the high dramas of politics occupy center-stage… Velvet is distinguished by the richness of its language and its empathy with its subject. Together, these produce a finely-textured description of a life lived in hardship but overflowing with sensibility and grace… The protagonist of this novel is the poetic narration, the skillful words, the flowing images, and the measured prose.” The English translation of Velvet (Mukhmal) was published in 2019, (Hoopoe Fiction). The novel, translated by Kay Heikkinen, was awarded 2020 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. In addition to her novels and short stories, Huzama Habayeb published two poetry collections, Estijdaa’ (Begging), in 2009, and “Ahadeeth Al-Wesada” (Pillow Talks) in 2019. Her published works include Akthar min Hobb (More Than Love: The Letters of Mahmoud Shukair and Huzama Habayeb), 2021, a collection of letters that Habayeb and the renowned Palestinian author Mahmoud Shukair exchanged in the course of 16 years. The letters shed light on their genuine friendship that has blossomed and deepened through their passion for writing. The letters offered both a trusted space where they shared their fears, worries, fragilities, frustrations, and their relentless pursuit of the meaning of life, love and friendship.