Dubai: Salma Khadra Jayyusi, a renowned Palestinian poet, writer, translator and anthologist, died on Thursday in Jordan. She was 95.
Born in 1928 in Safed to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother, Jayyusi grew up in Acre and the Baqa’a neighborhood of West Jerusalem. Following the Nakba of 1948, she moved to Jordan.
Jayyusi studied high school at the German Schmidt College in Jerusalem, then studied Arabic and English literature at the American University of Beirut. After her studies, she returned to Jerusalem and taught at Dar Al Moalemat College.
Growing up, Jayyusi attended the Ma’muniyya School in Jerusalem and the Government School in Acre, followed by Schmidt College for Girls in Jerusalem for her high school education.
She was known for her sharp intelligence from a young age. Jayyusi married Burhan Jayyusi in 1946, and together they had a son, Usama, and two daughters, Lina and May.
Jayyusi received her Ph.D. in Arabic literature from the University of London and taught Arabic literature in many Arab and foreign universities, including those in Khartoum, Algeria, Constantine, Utah, Michigan, Washington and Texas.
She travelled with her Jordanian diplomatic husband to various Arab and European countries and founded a large project that introduces Arab culture to the West.
First collection of poetry
Jayyusi began her literary career in the 1950s and published her first collection of poetry, Returning from the Dreamy Fountain, in 1960. In the early sixties, the family settled in Beirut, where Jayyusi participated in an ongoing debate between two opposing groups of literary figures, each represented by a literary magazine, Al Adab and Shi’r. She contributed to both magazines and emerged as an original poet, notable critic, and skillful translator.
In the 1980s, Jayyusi launched PROTA, working with translators, editors, and researchers to present Arab culture to the English-speaking world. The project produced more than 50 volumes, with 11 of them being encyclopedic in nature.
In 1990, she launched her second project, East-West Nexus, aimed at presenting classical and modern Arab and Islamic culture in English.
Jayyusi delivered numerous lectures and keynote speeches at conferences worldwide and received many awards and prizes for her achievements.
Impact on Arabic literature
tefan Sperl, a German Arabist and professor of Arabic literature at London University, praised her multi-faceted sensitivity as the core of her original contributions, making her one of the humanists of our times.
Jayyusi’s impact on Arabic literature and her dedication to bridging the gap between Arab and Western cultures will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come.
Jayyusi is the author of Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry and the editor of Literature of Modern Arabia, Modern Arabic Poetry, Modern Palestinian Literature, and The Legacy of Muslim Spain.
She has received numerous prestigious awards, such as the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award, the Edward Said Award for Career Excellence, and an award from Kuwait for distinguished services to Arab and Islamic culture.
Jayyusi is the founder and director of East-West Nexus and the Project of Translation from Arabic (PROTA).