Main Content

Abdellatif Aghsain

Main research areas

Modern Arabic literature after 1967
Literary anthropology
Cultural and intellectual history of the Arabic world

  • Vita

    MA, studied German (major), Arabic, Islamic Studies and French at the University Mohamed Ibn Abdellah in Fez (Morocco). In 2003 he completed his studies with a work on the Moroccan author Mohamed Choukri and his autobiographical novels For Bread Alone and Time of Mistakes. From the winter semester 2004-05 until 2010 he studied Arabic and Literature at the University of Freiburg. In July 2010 he completed his degree with an interdisciplinary work On the Discourse of the ‘Other’ in the Enlightenment. Lessing and Islam.

    In the summer semester of 2012 he joined the CNMS as a research associate in the department of Arabic Literature and Culture, focusing on the short stories of the Syrian author Zakaria Tamer.

  • Current research project

    Literary Subversions in the Work of Zakaria Tamer

    The doctorate project focuses on the Syrian author Zakaria Tamer (b. 1931) and his short stories written between 1960 and 1994. Zakaria Tamer is a member of a generation of authors whose literary production is shaped by the historical and political experiences of the 1960s, foremost the defeat in the June War of 1967 and its repercussions. Not only did this generation of young writers have to assert themselves vis-à-vis an already established literary field, but also deal with the question of the form and function of literary writing in a situation characterized by political repression and censorship.

    Authors like Zakaria Tamer see themselves subject to a dual censorship, one that is internal to the literary discourse and one imposed by authorities. Their desire to continue to engage critically with the problems of their society and publish their literary work demands that they develop a new writing style that itself is doubly subversive: it subverts state control, challenges the status quo and transcends the old literary narrative of the 1950s. Employing the genre of the short story, Zakaria Tamer weaves into his texts a multi-layered literary subversion reflecting on post-1967 censorship and its impact on individual lives in Arab societies while also mirroring the break with traditional narration. The subversive is not merely some aspect of his writing but rather inheres to the very practice and style of his writing – and so is present structurally and formally – and is characteristic for the broaching and discussing of controversial problems of Arab society in times of political repression. In this repressive context Tamer’s work functions as a space where emotions, opinions and demands, unable to be expressed individually, are articulated.

    This work proceeds from an anthropological understanding of Tamer’s short stories, approaching the literary text neither as merely an autonomous work of art nor as a representation of society. Instead, the emphasis is placed on a correlation of both, interpreting the texts as fictional figurations of interactive relationships between human dispositions and the respective circumstances, whereby these dispositions continually transgress these circumstances (Jürgen Schläger, Wolfgang Iser, 1994). If, on the one hand, the literary text is subjected to the conditions of its production, on the other it is at once a response to and a transcending of these very conditions, performed in a permanent subversion of the given social and political order.

  • Publications

    POETRY (anthologies)

    (2012) „Atlas der Abgelegenen Inseln“ by Judith Schalansky, in: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (forthcoming).

    (2011) „Mit Ohnmacht verkleidet gehe ich aus“, ein Gedichtband, in: Lisan Verlag, Basel/Schweiz.

    (2011) „Der Schoß der Leere“, ein Gedichtband, in: Lisan Verlag, Basel/Schweiz.

    (2010) „Der Husten, der dem Lachen folgt“, ein Gedichtband, in: Lisan Verlag, Basel/Schweiz.

    (2010) „Ich tauge nicht für die Liebe“, ein Gedichtband, in: Lisan Verlag, Basel/Schweiz.

    (2007) Die „Brücke des Rechnens“, ein Gedicht über die arabische Kalenderrechnung und Astrologie, in Zusammenarbeit mit Prof. Ulrich Rebstock u. a..


    „Ich werde frei sein“, Ein Gedicht, in: Lisan – Magazin für arabische Literatur, Basel/Schweiz, No. 6/2008, p. 47

    „Reflexion“, Ein Gedicht, in: Lisan – Magazin für arabischen Literatur, Basel/Schweiz, No. 4/2007, p. 30

    „Barca oder der Tod“, Ein Gedicht, in: Lisan – Magazin für arabische Literatur, Basel/Schweiz, No. 4/2007, p. 91

    „Faszination“ Ein Gedicht, in: Lisan – Magazin für arabische Literatur, Basel/Schweiz, No. 3/2007, p. 109

    „Der Sommer des letzten Jahres“, Ein Gedicht, in: Lisan – Magazin für arabische Literatur, Basel/Schweiz, No. 3/2007, p. 109