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Issa J Boullata, eminent scholar, writer and critic, an educator and translator, was born in Jerusalem in 1929. He died on May 1, 2019, aged 90, peacefully, at home surrounded by his children. He was a tremendous supporter and contributing editor of Banipal for many years, advising, translating, discussing, writing his own short stories which we published, A Retired Gentleman and Other Stories.
Jssa J Boullata started his academic career with a PhD in Arabic literature from London University in 1969. He is formerly Professor of Arabic Literature at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. During his career he has authored several books, including Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought (1990) and A Window on Modernism: Studies in the Works of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra and Rocks and a Wisp of Soil (2005) in Arabic, also a novel in Arabic A’id ila al-Quds (1998), and in 2014, a memoir of his early life entitled The Bells of Memory: A Palestinian Boyhood in Jerusalem.
He introduced and translated a ground-breaking poetry anthology Modern Arab Poets, 1950-1975 (1976) and published many literary translations of contemporary Arab authors including Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s memoirs Princesses' Street (2005) and The First Well (1995), Mohamed Berrada’s The Game of Forgetting (1986), Emily Nasrallah’s Flight Against Time (1997), and Ghada Samman’s The Square Moon (1998).
He also taught generations of students, who will mourn his passing while continuing through their practice to honour his memory. He was awarded the MESA Mentoring Award in Nov. 2004 by the Middle East Studies Association of North America in recognition of his excellent teaching and scholarly influence on generations of students.
He was a member of several professional organisations, including Radius of Arab-American Writers Inc (RAWI), and was for many years a crucial and dedicated contributing editor of Banipal.
In October 2007, Banipal Books published his collection of short stories, A Retired Gentleman and other stories.