Rasha Abbas is a Syrian journalist and writer of short stories. She is currently based in Berlin. In 2008, she published her first collection, Adam Hates the Television, and was awarded a prize for young writers during the Damascus Capital of Arab Culture festival. In 2013 she co-wrote the script for a short film, Happiness and Bliss, produced by Bedayat, and in 2014 she contributed to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, published by Saqi Books. While working on her second short story collection, she was awarded the Jean Jacques Rousseau Fellowship in Stuttgart.
Featured Reading Group Title: The Gist of It
The Gist of It is a collection of short stories that offers a ground level, human perspective of the current Syrian crisis. The stories are dark and edgy: a woman in exile longs to see her father on his deathbed, a young tattooist drops acid and discovers scarification, a penniless author desperately tries to write funny stories to keep his job at a newspaper, a young boy is sent to prison and meets two inmates who think they are in a new version of a story from the Bible. As Alice Guthrie writes in her reader’s report, Abbas’ writing is “Eclectic, intense, often psychedelic, many of her stories are dreamscapes which creep up on the reader with sudden plunges into haunting hyper-realism, operating within a punk aesthetic.”
- The Gist of It features as part of our winter / spring 2015 Arabic reading group. London meeting: 7pm on Wednesday, 10th June; Riverside Terrace Cafe, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX.
- Download and read Alice Guthrie’s translation of an extract from The Gist of It here on PEN Samples, as well as Guthrie’s reader’s report on the collection here. We’re delighted to be collaborating with English PEN Samples in bringing Rasha Abbas’s work to the attention of publishers and readers.
- Abbas is currently working on this collection of short stories in Arabic, and it will be available as a pdf to reading group readers soon.
- Read a piece Rasha Abbas wrote for PEN Atlas, in which she interrogates the role of art and literature in conflict and reflects on her personal contribution to Syria Speaks.