For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Khaled Khalifa.

Khaled Khalifa

Khaled Khalifa
Native name
خالد خليفة
Born(1964-01-01)1 January 1964
Urum al-Sughra, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Died30 September 2023(2023-09-30) (aged 59)
Damascus, Syria
  • Novelist
  • Screenwriter
  • Poet
Years active1993–2023
Notable worksIn Praise of Hatred
Notable awardsNaguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature (2013)

Khaled Khalifa (Arabic: خالد خليفة; 1 January 1964 – 30 September 2023) was a Syrian novelist, screenwriter, and poet. He was nominated three times and shortlisted twice for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.[1]

His works frequently criticized the Syrian Baathist government, leading to their ban in the country.[2][3]


Early life

Khalifa was born on 1 January 1964 in the village Urum al-Sughra near Aleppo to a family of olive farmers and agricultural machinery traders.[4] Khalifa’s extended family was engaged in olive cultivation and the production of olive oil, as well as in the trade of spare parts for trucks, cars and agricultural machines. He was the fifth child in a family of nine boys, four girls, two mothers, and a father who worked as a policeman until he retired in 1965. He studied in the city of Aleppo, where his family then resided, and graduated from Al-Mutanabbi High School in 1982. He continued his studies at the University of Aleppo and graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1988.[1][5][6]

Khalifa began his literary activity at the age of fifteen by publishing his poems in the Syrian Ba’athist Al-Thawra newspaper. He also participated in the University of Aleppo Forum, one of the most famous literature festivals in Syria.[5] This celebration attracted a large audience of students and other citizens, before the authorities closed it down in 1988 under the pretext that leftist opposition politicians used its platform to publicize their ideas.[4]



As a screenwriter, Khalifa had written several television dramas, including Rainbow (Kaws Kozah) and Memoirs of Al-Jalali (Arabic: سيرة الجلالي, romanizedSerat Al-Jalali), plus various documentaries, short films, and the feature-length film The Shrine Door (Arabic: باب المقام, romanizedBab al-Maqam).[7]


Khaled Khalifa began writing novels at the age of twenty and continued writing poetry as a way to exercise his literary skills. He wrote his first novel as a university student, but destroyed it immediately thereafter. That novel, he then felt, heavily borrowed other authors’ voices. He thus began searching for his own literary voice. In 1990, soon after graduating and completing his military service in Damascus, he stopped drawing and writing poetry, and devoted himself completely to novels and screenplays.[5]

His first published novel, Haris al-Khadi'a[8] ("The Guard of Deception"),[4] was released in 1993. His second novel, Dafatir al-Qurbat[8] ("The Gypsy Notebooks"),[4] was suppressed by the Arab Writers Union for four years after its publication in 2000.[8] Khalifa spent thirteen years working on In Praise of Hatred (Madih al-karahiya), his third novel, which was about how the lives of one family are affected by the conflict in Hama between the Syrian government and the Muslim Brotherhood.[8] It was published in Damascus in 2006 until it was banned by the Syrian government, and republished in Beirut.[4] Khalifa had stated these sort of book bans came from a bureaucracy which does not represent the higher levels of government,[2] and he favoured negotiation between artists and Syrian authorities to facilitate freedom of speech.[9] He said his work was not intended to advocate any political ideology.[8]

Discussing In Praise of Hatred, he stated:

above all, I wrote this novel in defense of the Syrian people and in order to protest against the suffering they have endured as a result of the religious and political dogmas that have tried to negate their ten-thousand-year civilization.[7]In Praise of Hatred[4] was a finalist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) (2008).[8]

His fourth novel was La sakakin fi matabikh hazihi al-madina ("No Knives in this City's Kitchens"), published in Cairo in 2013. It was about the "price that Syrians have paid under the rule of the Baath party" as headed by President Bashar Al-Assad. It won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.[10] It was shortlisted for the IPAF in 2014.[11] Death Is Hard Work, translated by Leri Price, was named a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature.[12] No One Prayed Over Their Graves, Khalifa's sixth novel, was longlisted for the IPAF in 2020.[1] In September 2023, the English translation was longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.[13]


Khalifa died of cardiac arrest at his home in Damascus, on 30 September 2023, at the age of 59.[14]


  • Haris al-Khadi'a, 1993 (The Guard of Deception)
  • Dafatir al-Qurbat, 2000 (The Gypsies' Notebooks)
  • Madih al-karahiya, 2006 (translated by Leri Price as In Praise of Hatred, 2013)
  • La sakakin fi matabikh hadhihi al-madina, 2013 (translated by Leri Price as No Knives in the Kitchens of This City, 2016)
  • Al-mawt 'amal shaq, 2016 (translated by Leri Price as Death Is Hard Work, 2019)
  • Lam yusil 'alayhum ahad, 2019 (translated by Leri Price as No One Prayed Over Their Graves, 2023)
  • Nisr 'ala al-Tawelah al-Mojawerah, 2022 (An Eagle at the Next Table)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Khaled Khalifa | International Prize for Arabic Fiction". Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  2. ^ a b Perry, Tom (3 July 2007). "Syrian author clashes with censors, urges liberty". Reuters. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  3. ^ Schanda, Susanne (31 July 2009). "Syriens ungeliebte Söhne" [Syria's unloved son]. Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Zürich. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Guest of the ilb 2009". International Literature Festival Berlin. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Biography - Khaled Khalifa". 23 March 2023. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  6. ^ Obank, Margaret, ed. (Spring 2008). "Feature on Syrian literature". Banipal (31). London. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  7. ^ a b Mahmoud, Sayed (6 March 2008). "Towards the abyss?". Al-Ahram Weekly. Cairo. Archived from the original on 9 August 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Worth, Robert F. (12 April 2008). "A Bloody Era of Syria's History Informs a Writer's Banned Novel". New York Times. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  9. ^ Asser, Martin (9 December 2008). "Life on the edge for Syrian artists". BBC News. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  10. ^ Mohammed Saad (11 December 2013). "Syrian Writer Khaled Khalifa wins Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature". Al-Ahram. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  11. ^ "No Title". International Prize for Arabic Fiction. 10 February 2014. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  12. ^ "The 2019 National Book Awards Finalists Announced". National Book Foundation. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  13. ^ "The 2023 National Book Awards Longlist: Translated Literature". The New Yorker. 13 September 2023. Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  14. ^ "Celebrated Syrian author Khaled Khalifa dead at 59". France 24. 1 October 2023. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Khaled Khalifa
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?