American University of Beirut

Elias Khoury

Acclaimed novelist, literature critic, and public intellectual, Elias Khoury is one of the leading Arab writers of his generation and an enduring influence in his native Lebanon and beyond. He is widely praised for his captivating storytelling and unique perspective and also renowned for his advocacy of freedom of expression and democratic values. A staunch defender of the Palestinian cause, his works include political themes and tackle fundamental aspects of human behavior. ​

Born in 1948 in Beirut, Lebanon, Khoury received his BA in history from the Lebanese University in 1970 and his DEA (diplôme d'études approfondies) in social history from the University of Paris in 1973.

A prolific writer across multiple genres, his first book in 1974 was a work of literary criticism, Searching for a Horizon: The Arabic Novel after the Defeat of 1967. His 1975 book, On the Relations of the Circle, and Little Mountain, which was written in 1977 during his participation in the Lebanese Civil War, established him as a pioneer in the new style of Arabic fiction.

Khoury embraced Arab nationalism and boldly espoused the Palestinian cause as an activist, journalist, cultural critic, public intellectual, and novelist. Becoming a figure in the Arab cultural scene, he provided the marginalized with a voice and was passionate to document the wars he was living and the suffering he encountered, all while questioning how things are seen.

He collaborated with renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish while he was managing editor of Shu'un Falastinia (Palestine Affairs) between 1975 and 1979. Prior to that, he was the editor of the series Thakirat Al-Shu'ub in Beirut, editorial director of the cultural section of Al-Safir newspaper (1983-1990), and director and editor of Al-Mulhaq, the cultural supplement of Annahar newspaper (1992-2009).

Between 1992 and 1998, he directed the Theatre of Beirut and co-directed the Ayloul Festival of Modern Arts in Beirut. His three plays have been performed in Beirut, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Basel. He also participated in the writing of two prize-winning films: Bab Al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), 2002 and Kharej Al-Hayat (Hors la Vie), 1992.

Elias Khoury has published 15 novels, a collection of short stories, and literary studies. Many of his books have been translated into multiple languages including French, Hebrew, German, English, Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, Turkish, Polish, and Spanish. In addition to Gate of the Sun, his major novels include Awlad Al-Ghetto (Children of the Ghetto), 2016, 2018; Ka-annaha Na'imah (As Though She Were Sleeping), 2012; Yalo, 2002; Rahlat Gandhi Al Saghir (The Journey of Little Gandhi), 1989; Al Jabal Al Saghir (Little Mountain), 1977; Bab Al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), 1998; and Mamlakat Al-Guraba (The Kingdom of Strangers), 1993.

Khoury's academic career covers a list of distinguished universities in the Middle East, Europe, and the US, including New York University where he was a global distinguished professor for more than a decade, as well as Columbia University, University of London, University of Zurich, Georgetown University, and Princeton University. In Lebanon, he taught at the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, and the Lebanese American University. Between 1987 and 1989, he was member of AUB's faculty as an instructor in the Civilization Sequence Program.

He is the recipient of several awards and was bestowed the Spanish Legion of Honor, Commander by King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2011. He won the Al Owais Award for fiction writing in 2007 and his novel Bab Al-Shams won the State of Palestine Prize in 2007 and is ranked 68 on the list of the 100 best novels in history, according to the global “List Muse" site.

Khoury is currently the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies at the Beirut-based Institute of Palestine Studies.

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