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Taleb Alrefai was born in Kuwait on 10th May, 1958. In 1982, he obtained his degree in Civil Engineering from the College of Engineering and Petroleum at the University of Kuwait and began writing during his studies in the mid-seventies, publishing in local newspapers. He published his first collection of short stories in 1992, under the title of Tal ‘Amrak Abu ‘Ujjaj (May You Live Long Abu ‘Ajjaj) and has published six more collections and seven novels since then.
His first novel, Dhil al-Shams, (Shadow of the Sun), centred on the degrading lives endured by migrant Egyptian workers in Kuwait. It was republished in a revised edition in 2012. Its English translation is published by Banipal Books, October 2023. translated by Nashwa Nasreldin.
He has also written one play, Urs al-Nari (Wedding of Fire). In 2002, he won the State Prize for Letters for his novel, Ra’ihat al-Bahri (The Scent of the Sea). and his works have been translated into English, French and German. His novel Fi al-Huna (Here and There) was longlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. It has been published in French translation (Ici Même) and was reviewed in Banipal 56 (Summer 2016). Two further novels have been translated and published in French – Les Portes du Paradis and Hâpy.
His novel Al-Najdi, which was longlisted for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, follows the final hours in the life of Ali Al-Najdi, one of the most famed captains in Kuwaiti history, and his last adventure at sea. Its English translation, The Mariner, translated by Russell Harris, was published by Banipal Books in 2020. In December 2022, Spiracle Audiobooks and Banipal Books launched an audiobook of The Mariner. Later novels
Between 2003 and 2008, Taleb Alrefai worked for the Kuwaiti National Council of Culture, Arts and Literature and edited the monthly arts review, Jaridat Al Funoon. He was Chair of Judges for the 2009/2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. In 2011 he founded Al-Multaqa (Cultural Circle), a regular fortnightly literary discussion forum in Kuwait City, which led to the founding in December 2015 of the now highly successful annual AlMultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story.
Taleb Alrefai lives in Kuwait City and is a creative writing lecturer at the American University of Kuwait.