art of resistance, Palestine, Syria

Zakaria Tamer, The Master of (Children’s) Stories.

Zakaria Tamer (born in 1931,Damascus, Syria) is an influential master of the Arabic-language short story. Tamer 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. He also works as a freelance journalist, writing satirical columns in newspapers Al-Quds Al-Arabi and Al Tawra.


Tamer was forced to leave school at the age of thirteen in order to help provide for his family.He was apprenticed to a blacksmith as a locksmith in a factory in the Al-Basha district of Damascus. At the same time, as an autodidact, he spent many hours reading various books, became interested in politics and was encouraged by contact with intellectuals to continue his education at night school. 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”).


Tamer’s 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 people’s inhumanity to each other, the oppression of the poor by the rich and of the weak by the strong. The political and social problems of his own country, Syria, and of the Arab world, are reflected in the stories and sketches in the satirical style typical of his writing.

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Tamer’s first stories were published in 1957. Since then he has published eleven collections of short stories, two collections of satirical articles and numerous children’s books. His works have been translated into many languages, with two collections in English, Tigers on the Tenth Day and Other stories(translated by Denys Johnson-Davies) and Breaking Knees: Modern Arabic Short Stories from Syria, published in 2008.

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Tamer was also the editor of several cultural periodicals, including children’s magazine Usamah. In 1980s he left Syria and moved to London (he did so after being 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 book, Tabai al istibadad – “The Characteristics of Despotism“, 1900 – in which the author denounced tyranny and called for freedom).

tumblr_l8ofa7LuwL1qd3smho1_1280 /all photos above are from the book The White Pigeon, written by Zakaria Tamer, illustrated by Adli Rizkallah, translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davis, published by Dar al Fata al Arabi./


/La Casa (“Home”) Italian translation of Tamer’s book. Written by Zakaria Tamer, illustrated by Mohieddin El Labbad, published by Dar al Fata al Arabi, 1979./

The text could be translated as:

The chicken has a home. The home of the chicken is called a chicken coop.

The rabbit has a home. The home of the rabbit is called a burrow.

The horse has a home. The home of the horse is the stall.

Even fish have a home. The home of the fish is the river, the lake and the sea.

The cat roams around day and night. But even he has a home that he can go to.

The bird has a home in the trees.

His home is called a nest. Everyone needs a home.

All humans need a home that is secure and peaceful.

Today, the Palestinians do not have a home.

The house and the place where the Palestinians live is not their home.

Where is the home of the Palestinians? Today, the Palestinians do not live in their homes. In their homes live their enemies. Who are the enemies of the Palestinian? Those who have occupied their homes.

How are the Palestinians going to retake their homes?

The Palestinians will fight an armed struggle to take back their homes. Someday the Palestinians will return to live in their own homes.”

For more on Zakaria Tamer and his works – visit Goodreads, and see Tamer’s facebook page The Spur (Al-Mihmaz).


4 thoughts on “Zakaria Tamer, The Master of (Children’s) Stories.

  1. Pingback: Zakaria Tamer Readathon | Arab Hyphen

  2. Grace Hildebrand says:

    Hello, do you know where I can get copies of the original Arabic stories? This will help me in my work with refugee students in high school (Canada). Thank you!

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