Born in 1957 in Kirkuk, Iraq, Abdullah Ibrahim received an Arabic education there, going on to pursue Arabic literary studies at Baghdad University (BA 1981, MA 1987 and PhD 1991). That’s perhaps one of the reasons why his bibliographical items are (with few exceptions) exclusively in Arabic, including many translations from Western languages. According to his recently published memoirs, Amwaj (Waves), Ibrahim, while writing his dissertation on Arabic narratology in the late 1980s, embarked on a project to cover Arabic narrative from its earliest time up until the present day, as reflected in this 2016 encyclopedia.

Abdullah Ibrahim's nine-volume Encyclopedia of Arabic Narrative published in 2016 (in Arabic) incorporates most of the narrative-related books Abdullah Ibrahim published earlier over lengthy period of time, and represents a culmination of nearly thirty years of research. I refer here specifically to his following works: Arabic Narratology (1992; 2000); Islamic Centrism: The Image of the Other in the Islamic Imagination during the Middle Ages (2001); The World of the Middle Ages through Muslim Eyes, 2 volumes (2001); Classical Arabic Prose (2002); Modern Arabic Narratology (2003, 2013), The Arabic Novel (2007); Feminist Narrative (2011); Historical Imagination (2011); Narration, Identity and Confession (2011), and Narratology and Translation (2012).

Abdullah Ibrahim stands out among other prominent Arab critics and scholars both for his distinguished literary studies and for being instrumental in promoting a general awareness of Arabic narrative as a genre no less important than poetry. Because of his continuous pursuit of the subject since 1988, combined with his oft-repeated pronouncement “al-sard diwan al-Arab” (Narrative is the Register of the Arabs), his name has become synonymous in Arabic media with the terms al-sard (narrative) and al-sardiyyah (narratology). In recognition of his contributions, Ibrahim has received several awards, among them Shoman (1997), the Sheikh Zayed Award for Literary and Art Criticism (2013) and the King Faisal International Prize (2014).

Since 1988, in different capacities as an academician, Ibrahim has taught or promoted the subject at several Arab universities: Al-Mustansiriyyah University, Baghdad (1992-1993), Zawiyah (formerly Seventh of April University), Zawiyah, Libya, (1993-1999) and the University of Qatar, Doha, (1999-2002). He also served as a cultural adviser at Qatar’s Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage from 2003 to 2010. He supervised literary and cultural events that focused on narrative (the novel) and other literary issues, including forums on ‘The Novel and History’ (2005); ‘The Novel and the Future’ (2006); ‘Social Transformations and the Dialectics of Culture and Values’ (2007); ‘Literature and Exile’ (2007); ‘Orientalism’ (2008); ‘Language and Identity’ (2009) and ‘The American Image in Modern Arab Culture’ (2010).

Ibrahim’s first book appeared in 1988 under the title The Artistic Structure of the War Novel in Iraq.

Since then, he has published more than twenty-five books, including his 2016 encyclopedia, his recently published autobiography Amwaj (2017), a collection of essays entitled Eye of the Sun: The Duality of Blindness and Sight from Homer to Borges (2018), and the three-volume work al-Mutabaqah wa al-Ikhtilaf (‘Identification and Difference’) 2018. The latter represents his second area of interest, which focuses on critique of Western and Islamic centrism.

Biographical information about the author, from a review of the Encyclopedial of Arabic Narrative by Salih J Altoma in Banipal 61 – A Journey in Iraqi Fiction.


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Banipal 61 - A Journey in Iraqi Fiction (2018)