Author Ashur Etwebi: "Libya has a lively literary life"

February 2008 -

"An active world of literature and poetry has developed in Libya over the past thirty years. Little is known about this in Europe because to the West, Libya did not exist on the world map until recently," says Ashur Etwebi (1952). The leading Libyan author was a guest at the literature festival Winternachten (Winter Nights) 2008.

More than 120 new literature and poetry titles were published in Libya in 2007, mostly through a publishing house affiliated with the government. Libya also has a number of private publishing houses, but they are primarily interested in publications that yield a profit. Poetry evenings are regularly organised at which poets read their work. Many poets and authors also publish their work on the Internet to reach a broader audience, including outside of Libya. 

Etwebi has published a number of collections of poems since 1993. His first novel was published in 2001. The book, Dadarin, portrays daily life in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, through the eyes of five boys. The fact that Etwebi wrote the book in the Libyan dialect instead of classical Arabic drew criticism from conservatives. Others believe that its language makes the book a turning point in the history of Libyan novels. Etwebi's poems repeatedly reflect upon the country's history and tell of daily life in Libya. His poem White birds in a black space jumps back and forth between reality and the protagonist’s mind. His love of the desert is also evident in Etwebi’s texts: (…)"So my beloved desert country, douse yourself in perfume"(from: White birds in a black space).

Etwebi also devotes effort to exchanges with poets and authors outside of Libya. He will soon be accompanying a group of American poets during their appearances in Libya. Etwebi met the poets while participating in the International Writing Program at the American University of Iowa in 2006. His dream is to organise an international literature and poetry festival in Libya.