Zakaria Tamer

Infobox Writer
name= _ar. زكريا تامر
Zakaria Tamer

imagesize = 200px
caption = Zakaria Tamer Syrian Writerdeletable image-caption
birthdate = birth date and age|1931|01|02
birthplace = Damascus, Syria
occupation = Short story writer, Newspaper Columnist, Newspaper Editor
nationality = Syrian
period = 1960-Present
genre = short story, Children's Literature

Zakaria Tamer ( _ar. زكريا تامر), also transliterated Zakariya Tamir (strict transliteration ArabDIN|Zakariyyā Tāmir), (born January 2, 1931 in Damascus, Syria) is an influential master of the Arabic-language short story.

He is one of the most important and widely read and translated short story writers in the Arab world, as well as being the foremost author of children’s stories in Arabic. [New Developments in the Arabic Short Story during the Seventies Moussa-Mahmoud, Fatma, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, Page 109, 1983 03056139 Taylor & Francis Ltd.] He also writes children's stories and works as a freelance journalist, writing satirical columns in newspapers.

His volumes of short stories, are often reminiscent of folktales, and are renowned for their relative simplicity on the one hand and the complexity of their many potential references on the other. They often have a sharp edge and are often a surrealistic protest against political or social oppression and exploitation. Most of his stories deal with man's inhumanity to man, likewise to woman, the oppression of the poor by the rich and of the weak by the strong.

To date he has written eleven short story collections, two satirical article collections and numerous children’s books. An English translation of one of his collections was published in 2008 by Garnet Publishing under the title Breaking Knees.


Early life

Zakaria Tamer was born in 1931 in the Al-Basha district of Damascus. He was forced to leave school in 1944, at the age of thirteen in order to help provide for his family. [A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories, Publisher: Saqi Books (April 1, 2000): ISBN: 0863561918] He was apprenticed to a blacksmith as a locksmith in a factory in the Al-Basha district of Damascus. [Ibrāhīm al-Arash, Ittijāhāt al-qiah fī Sūriyā bad al-arb al-ālamiyyah ath-thāniyah (Damascus: Dār as-Suāl, 1982), 273.] At the same time, as an autodidact, he spent many hours reading various books, he became interested in politics and was encouraged by contact with intellectuals to continue his education at night school. He read voraciously and was provoked by his reading, as he later said in an interview, "to create a voice which [he] hadn't been able to find [there] " [Al-Marifa, August 1972] . His intention was to represent in his writing the very poor majority of men and women in Syria, with their joyless and restricted existence.

He began his literary career in 1957, when he published some stories in Syrian journals. His first manuscript was noticed by Yusuf al-Khal, the poet, critic and editor of the magazine "Shi'r" ("Poetry") which at the time was acting as midwife to the birth of modern Arabic poetry. The talent that lay behind the poetical prose of theses stories, was so unlike anything being written in Arabic at the time, that Al-Khal decided to publish it, this became his first collection of short stories, which was entitled "The Neighing of the White Steed". [Tigers on the Tenth Day and Other Stories By Denys Johnson-Davies(TRANSLATOR), Zakarīyā Tāmir, Zakaria Tamer, 1985, ISBN 0704324652]

The collection brought him considerable attention and repute amount readers and critics.


Following his literary success, which was reflected in the good reception of his first collection, he left his job as a blacksmith and embarked on a new career, as government official, as well as editor of several journals, including the cultural periodicals "Al Mawqif al-Adabi", and "Al Marifah", and the children’s magazine "Usamah".

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Syrian Writers Union in Syria 1968. He was elected member of the executive bureau responsible for the publishing and print, and was vice-president of the Union for four years.

In 1980 he was dismissed from editing the periodical al-Marifah, published by the Syrian Ministry of Culture, as a result of the publication of extracts from "Abd al-Rahman al-kawakibi’s" (1849-1902) book, "Tabai al istibadad (“The Characteristics of Despotism, 1900)", in which the author denounced tyranny and called for freedom. As a result of his dismissal, Tamer decided to travel to London, leaving his home country of Syria. [Damascene Shahrazad: The Images of Women in Zakariyya Tamir’s Short Stories Source: Hawwa 4, no. 1 (2006)]

1980s onwards

Interest in Tamer’s works did not lessen after his immigration to Great Britain [Najm Abd Allāh Kāim, “Zakariyyā Tāmir wa-tajribat al-kitābāt al-qaīrah,” in al-Mawqif al-adabī, no. 352 (Damascus: Ittiād al-Kuttāb al-Arab, 2000), 10. ] . In the year 2000 the Syrian literary journal al-Mawqif al-adabī published five articles on Zakaria Tamer's fiction in a special issue. Among them there is a paper by Najm Abd Allāh Kāim on the genre to which Tamer’s works belong, pointing out the economy and ambiguity of the language by which he expresses the correlation between the narrative context and its implications, which is of fundamental importance for the aesthetic structure of Tamer’s short stories. Another scholar, Nādiyā Khūst, analyses Nidā Nū in particular, and notes the psychological paradox underlying the bizarre situations depicted in his stories. [ [3] Nādiyā Khūst, “Qia Zakariyyā Tāmir al-jadīda,” ibid., 33]

This paradox reveals the general qualities of Tamer’s creative technique, including the intermingling of farce and tragedy, of humor and seriousness.

From 1981-1982 he took charge of Al Dustoor magazine as managing editor, he went on to be culture editor of Al Tadhamon magazine (1983-1988) and in became managing editor of Al Naqid magazine (1988-1993), and culture editor at Riyadh Al Rayes Publishing House.

He also wrote for various newspapers and periodicals published in London, including Al-Quds Al-Arabi.



* 2001: Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation: Prize of Stories Novels & Drama [profile for Zakaria tamer at the Owais Cultural Foundation]
* 2002: Honoured and invested with the Syrian Order of Merit [Three Syrian Intellectuals honored, Syria Live]

Themes In Writing

A common theme in his writing has been that the strongest of us can gradually be broken and tamed by those who wield the whip of power. Those who rule, Zakaria Tamer tells us in many a story, while devoid of all the noble qualities that should be theirs, possess the intuitive awareness of how to use the carrot and the stick. An Arab critic once contrasted him with Charles Darwin: One showing how humans developed from monkeys, the other showing how humans could be manipulated into becoming monkeys.

Another favorite theme, as seen in such stories as the "The Stale Loaf" and the "Room with Two Beds", is the sexual frustration of the young in the Arab world and the toll that is exacted - particularly from the women - when sexual taboos are breached, or are thought to have been breached.

Though humor is not one of the ingredients of these stories, the writer does allow himself an occasional sardonic grin at the forms of injustice to which man is subjected by his rulers, his fellow men and the circumstances of lives enclosed in routine of ill-rewarded work and unfulfillment. Zakaria Tamer's world is Orwellian though unmistakably Arab. The secret police, with their physical brutalities, feature in many of the stories, as for instance in the dark-humored "A summary of What Happened to Mohammed al-Mahmoudi", where a harmless old man finds that even in death he is not immune from their attention.

The directness and absence of embroidery with which Zakaria Tamer writes is a powerful weapon in giving distinctive form to the basic themes to which he returns again and again.


To date he has published eleven collections of stories, two collections of satirical articles and dozens of children's books.

hort story collections

*"The Neighing of the White Steed"(1960) صهيل الجواد الابي "ArabDIN|Ṣahīl al-Jawād al-Ābiyy"
*"Spring In The Ashes", (1963) ربيع في الرماد "ArabDIN|Rabīʿ fī al-Ramād"
*"The Thunder", (1970) الرعد "ArabDIN|Ar-Raʿad"
*"Damascus Fire", (1973) دمشق الحرائق "ArabDIN|Dimeshq al-Ḥarāʼiq"
*"Tigers on the Tenth Day", (1978) النمور في اليوم العاشر "ArabDIN|al-Numūr fī al-Yawm al-ʿĀshir"
*"Noah's Summons", (1994),نداء نوح "ArabDIN|Nidāʼ Nūḥ"
*"We Shall Laugh", (1998) سنضحك "ArabDIN|Sanaḍḥak"
*"IF!", (1998) أف!
*"Sour Grapes", (2000) الحصرم "ArabDIN|Al-Ḥaṣram"
*"Breaking The Spirits", (2002) تكسير ركب "ArabDIN|Taksīr Rukb"
*"The Hedgehog", (2005) القنفذ "ArabDIN|Al-Qunfuḏ"

Collections of satirical articles

*"Glories, Arabs, Glories", (1986) "Amjad Ya Arab amjad"
*"The Victim's Satire Of His Killer", (2003)

Other Collections

*"Why the River Fell Silent", (1973) لماذا سكت النهر "ArabDIN|Limāḏā Sakata al-Nahr"
*"The Flower Spoke to the Bird", (1978) قالت الوردة للسنونو "ArabDIN|Qālit al-Warda Lilsununu"

In Translation

*"Breaking Knees", (2008), translated by Ibrahim Muhawi (Reading, UK: Garnet Publishing)"

Editorial Work

*1960-1963, Writers and Publishing Dept. at Syria Ministry of Culture
*1963-1965, editor of weekly "Al Mawqef Al Arabi", Syria
*1965-1966, Screenwriter for Jeddah TV, KSA
*1967, started his work at Syria Ministry of Information
*1967-1970, Head of Drama Department at Syrian TV
*1970-1971, Editor-in-Chief of kids "Rafi" magazine, Syria
*1972-1975, Editor-in-Chief of "Al Mawqef Al Adabi" magazine, Syria
*1975-1977, Editor-in-Chief of kids "Osama" magazine, Syria
*1978-1980, Editor-in-Chief of "Al Ma’arifa" magazine, Syria
*1980-1981, Syria Ministry of Culture
*1981-1982, Managing editor of "Al Dustoor" magazine, London
*1983-1988, Culture editor of "Al Tadhamon" magazine, London
*1988-1993, Managing editor of "Al Naqid" magazine and culture editor at Riyadh Al Rayes Publishing House, London

Other Activities

*Co-founded Arab Writers Union in Syria 1969, member of its Executive Bureau, and Deputy Chairman for four years
*Participated in many literary events in Arab countries
*Jury member of many Arab and international literary competitions

Newspaper Columns

*1989-1994, "Al-Quds Al-Arabi", Wrote daily articles for Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, London
*2002, Azzaman Newspaper
*2006, Al Tawra Newspaper (Revolution)

ee also

* Arabic Literature
* List of short story authors
* List of Syrians



* Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century Vol. V (Supplement), New York: Ungar,1993.
* Arab Culture 1977: Religious Identity and Radical Perspectives By Universit E Saint-Joseph, Published 1980, Dar El-Mashreq, ISBN 2721458035
* Arabic Short Stories By Denys Johnson-Davies, 1983, Quartet Books Literature, ISBN 0704323672
* Syria: Society, Culture, and Polity By Richard T. Antoun, ISBN 0791407136
* Tigers on the Tenth Day and Other Stories By Denys Johnson-Davies(TRN), Zakarīyā Tāmir, Zakaria Tamer, 1985, ISBN 0704324652
* Islam: Islam, state and politics By Bryan Stanley Turner, Published 2003 Routledge (UK), ISBN 041512347X
* Dislocating Masculinity: comparative ethnographies By Andrea Cornwall, Nancy Lindisfarne, ISBN 0415079411
* Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Modern Arabic Fiction An Anthology, ed , New York: Columbia University Press (2005)

Further reading

elected studies

* [ Damascene Shahrazad: The Images of Women in Zakariyya Tamir’s Short Stories Source: Hawwa 4, no. 1 (2006)]
* [ Bayan Rayhanova. Mythological and Folkloric Motifs in Syrian Prose: The Short Stories of Zakariyya Tamir]
* [ Bulletin of the Israeli Oriental society - التربيه والترويض وما بينهما كما ينعكس الامر في القصص القصيرة للكاتب السوري زكريا تامر .]
* [ Bulletin of the Israeli Oriental society -الحق للحرية كما يتمثل في أدب الأطفال عند زكريا تامر]
* [ Tishreen University Journal for Studies and Scientific Research- Arts and Humanities Science Series Vol (26) No (1) 2004 - الرؤية السردية في قصص زكريا تامر]
* Individuation and Literature: Zakariyya. Tamir and his Café Man’ (Emma Westney), Oxford University (1996)
* Alon Fragman, Ben Gurion University: “When the Birds Leave Their Cage: Zakariyya Tamir’s Writing in Exile”
* Historical and literary figures in the works of Zakariyyā Tāmirs, (Historische und literarische Figuren im Werk Zakariyyā Tāmirs by Peter Dové), Universität Bern (2003)

External links

* [ Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume 16, Number 1, 1985 , pp. 105-108(4),'The Moon Unmasked' By Zakaria Tamer translated by Hugh Pope] (Last Accessed 4th June 2008)
* [ Short Story "The Sleeping Woman"] (Last Accessed 4th June 2008)
* [ Zakaria Tamer, Al Thawra Newspaper column] (Last Accessed 4th Jan 2007)
* [ Archive of all Zakaria Tamer Articles written for Azzaman Newspaper] (Last Accessed 4th Jan 2007)
* [ Profile from Owais Cultural Foundation] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Arabic narratives galore] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Encarta Article On contribution to Arabic Literature and the Short Story Genre ] (Last Accessed 4th June 2008)
* [ Short Story "Sprouts" Translation from the Arabic by William Hutchins] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Al-Shams al-Saghira ("Little Sun") by Zakaria Tamir] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Al-Liha ("The Beards") by Zakaria Tamir] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Al-Hazimah and Kidhb ("The Defeat" and "The Lie") by Zakaria Tamir] (Last Accessed: 7th Dec 2006)
* [ Death of a Dagger By Zakaria Tamer] (Last Accessed: 31st March 2007)

NAME= Zakaria Tamer
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Tamir, zakariyya; tamer, zakariya, zakaria,
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Syrian Writer of Short stories, Newspaper Columnist, Newspaper Editor
DATE OF BIRTH=01/02/1931
PLACE OF BIRTH=Damascus, Syria

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zakaria Tamer — est né le 2 janvier 1931 à Damas, est un journaliste et auteur de nouvelles syrien. Occupation de courte scénariste, chroniqueur, rédacteur en chef de journal Nationalité syrienne Zakaria Tamer (arabe: زكريا تامر), également translittéré Zakariya …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Zakaria Tamer — (arabisch ‏ زكريا تامر‎), auch bekannt unter folgdender Schreibweise Zakarija Tamer, (* 1931 in Damaskus) ist ein syrischer Schriftsteller. Er zählt zu den Altmeistern der arabischen Kurzgeschichte und dürfte einer der einflussreichsten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tamer — ist ein männlicher Vorname arabischer und türkischer Herkunft[1] mit der Bedeutung Ein ganzer Mann [2], der im Türkischen vorkommt im Sinne von Ein geachteter Mensch, jemand mit guten Charakterzügen.[3] Tamer tritt auch als Familienname auf.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Zakariyya Tamer — Zakaria Tamer (en árabe, زكريا تامر), un maestro del cuento de la literatura árabe nacido el 2 enero de 1931 en Damasco,Siria. Es uno de los más importantes escritores de relato corto, leído y traducido del mundo árabe, así como un autor muy… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Zechariah (given name) — Infobox Given Name Revised name = Zechariah imagesize= caption= pronunciation= gender = Male meaning = God has remembered region = origin = Hebrew related names = Zachary, Zacharias, Zack, etc. footnotes = The male given name Zechariah is derived …   Wikipedia

  • Syria — This article is about the modern state of Syria. For other uses, see Syria (disambiguation). Syrian Arab Republic الجمهورية العربية السورية Al Jumhūriyyah al ʿArabiyyah as Sūriyyah …   Wikipedia

  • List of short story authors — This is a partial list of published short story authors:Letters A E* Chinua Achebe (born 1930) * Sherman Alexie (born 1966) * Henry Allen (born 1982) * Steve Almond * Martin Amis (born 1949) * Sherwood Anderson (1876 1941) * Jacob M. Appel * Max… …   Wikipedia

  • Arabic literature — (Arabic: الأدب العربي Al Adab Al Arabi ) is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by speakers (not necessarily native speakers) of the Arabic language. It does not usually include works written using the Arabic alphabet but not in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Denys Johnson-Davies — (Arabic: دنيس جونسون ديڤيز) is an eminent Arabic into English literary translator who has translated, inter alia, several works by Nobel Prize winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, Sudanese author Tayeb Salih, Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish… …   Wikipedia

  • Arabic Short Story — Arabic Short Story= With the development of the printing press in the 19th century, the Arabic short story (Arabic القصة القصيرة) first appeared in 1870 in daily newspapers and weekly magazines, perhaps because it is compact enough to be… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.