Anton Shammas

add contact to address book

Shammas 2012

Professor of Middle Eastern Literature

3163 Thayer Academic Building

Phone: 734.936.8805
antons@umich.edu
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Comparative Literature, Near Eastern Studies
  • About

    A Palestinian writer and translator of Arabic, Hebrew and English, Anton Shammas has been teaching Arabic and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, since 1997. He is the author of three books of poetry (in Hebrew and Arabic); two plays; many essays in English, Hebrew and Arabic; and a novel, Arabesques, originally published in Hebrew (1986) and translated into 8 languages. Upon its American publication in 1988, Arabesques was chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best seven fiction works of 1988. His essays, on the current cultural and political scene in the Middle East, and on his linguistic autobiography in between three languages, have been published in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times Magazine. He has translated from and into Arabic, Hebrew and English, playwrights, writers and poets such as: Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Athol Fugard, Dario Fo, Emile Habiby, Mahmoud Darwish, and Taha Muhammad Ali. He is currently working on a collection of essays: Blind Spots and other essays on translation. The book will span different foundational moments in the history of translation, starting with the translation into Latin of an eleventh century book by an Arab mathematician to whom Cervantes seems to owe his novelistic perspective, through the resistance to translation embodied in the frustrating experience of the Arab-Jewish interpreter Columbus took with him on his first voyage, and ending with the attempts at translating the pain of tortured Palestinian prisoners into the legal English language of the affidavit; and some other moments in between.

    EDUCATION
    1968-1972 The Hebrew University in Jerusalem: English and Arabic literature; History of Art.

    EMPLOYMENT
    Fall 1999 Acting Chair, Program in Comparative Literature, The University of Michigan.
    1997- Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Literature, Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Comparative Literature, The University of Michigan.
    1996 Visiting Literary Translator, The International Institute, The University of Michigan.
    1989-1998 Intermittently, Adjunct Professor in the Departments of English, Near Eastern Studies, and the Program in Comparative Literature, The University of Michigan.
    1988-1989 A Visiting Fellow, Institute for the Humanities, The University of Michigan.
    1987-1988 A Rockefeller Fellow, The Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, The University of Michigan.
    1970-1975 An editor of the monthly, Arabic literary magazine Al-Sharq, Jerusalem.

    EXTRAMURAL PROFESSIONAL WORK
    2002- Member, Editorial Committee, Journal of Palestine Studies.
    1994 Founding Member, "The International Parliament of Writers," Strasbourg, France.
    1992 Juror, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, awarded biennially by the literary quarterly World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma.
    1992- Member, Editorial Board, Michigan Quarterly Review.
    1992 Guest-editor, a special issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review on The Middle East, Fall 1992.
    1991- Member, the Advisory Board of the International Writers Center, Washington University in St. Louis.
    1989- Associate Member, Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan.

    LITERARY DISTINCTIONS AND AWARDS
    Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, 1993-96.
    A Whiting Writer's Award, 1991-92.
    "Am?rka, Am?rka," an essay published in Harper's Magazine (February 1991), was chosen by the editors of The Best American Essays 1992 as one of the "Notable Essays of 1991."
    Arabesques, a novel, was reviewed upon its American publication on the front page of The New York Times Book Review (by William Gass), April 17, 1988. It was chosen by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the best seven fiction works of 1988.
    The International Writing Program, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1981.

    PUBLICATIONS
    Books
    Arabesques, a novel written originally in Hebrew (Arabeskot) and published in Israel in 1986, since published in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and Portuguese..
    The Biggest Liar in the World (a children's book in Hebrew. Jerusalem, 1982).

    Poetry
    Poems (Arabic. Jerusalem, 1974).
    Hardcover (Hebrew. Tel-Aviv, 1974).
    No Man's Land (Hebrew. Tel-Aviv, 1979).

    Plays
    Ghassil Wijjak ya Qamar (Wash your Face, Moon - Arabic), for "The Arab Theater," Haifa, 1997.
    Stuffed Ducks, a play in progress (Hebrew and English), for River Arts, Woodstock, 1989.
    Ta'ah bil-hayt (A Hole in the Wall), a bilingual play for young adults, in Arabic and Hebrew, "Haifa Theater," 1978-79.

    Fictions
    "Arabesque," Harper's Magazine, March 1988.
    "The Retreat From Galilee," Granta 23 (London), Spring 1988.

    Essays, Articles, and Book Reviews
    "Introduction," to Passage to Dusk, a novel by Rashid al-Daif, tr. from the Arabic by N. Tanoukhi, The University of Texas at Austin, 2001, p. 1-10.
    "The Poet Goes Back Home," a short essay on Mahmoud Darwish, Banipal, No. 4, Spring 1999.
    "Literature As Pretext: The Image of the Absent Palestinian in Modern Hebrew Literature" (Arabic), An-Nahar Cultural Supplement, Beirut, May 16, 1998.
    "West Jerusalem: Falafel, Cultural Cannibalism and the Poetics of Palestinian Space" (Arabic), An-Nahar Cultural Supplement, Beirut, August 23, 1997.
    "The Reality of Palestine," Op-Ed page, The New York Times, Jan. 24, 1996.
    "Autocartography," The Threepenny Review, Fall 1995. (Excerpted in the June 1996 issue of Harper's Magazine.)
    "Palestinians in Israel," The Journal of the International Institute (University of Michigan), Fall 1995.
    "Presumed Guilty," Op-Ed page, The New York Times, May 4, 1995.
    "Palestinians Must Now Master the Art of Forgetting," The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 26, 1993.
    "The Once and Future Egypt" (a review of Amitav Ghosh, In An Antique Land. Knopf, 1993), The New York Times Book Review, August 1, 1993.
    "A Lost Voice," The New York Times Magazine, April 28, 1991.
    "Am?rka, Am?rka," Harper's Magazine, February 1991.
    "Dust, Gas, Desert Storm," Op-Ed page, The New York Times, January 27, 1991.
    "Arafat's Types of Ambiguity," Harper's Magazine, March 1989.
    "On a Camel Moving Forward in Time" (a review of Amin Maalouf, Leo Africanus. Norton, 1989), The New York Times Book Review, March 12, 1989.
    "The Shroud of Mahfouz," The New York Review of Books, February 2, 1989.
    "When Israel Spoke to the PLO," a review of Amalia and Aharon Barnea, Mine Enemy. Grove Press, 1988), Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 4, 1988.
    "Palestinians Liberate a Dream," Op-Ed page, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1988.
    "The Morning After," The New York Review of Books, September 29, 1988.
    "A Stone's Throw," The New York Review of Books, March 31, 1988.
    "Arab Walls, Reflecting Change," Harper's Magazine, November 1987.
    "Kitsch 22," Tikkun Magazine, September-October 1987.

    Some of the above pieces, and others, unpublished in English, were translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish, and published in different European papers and magazines: Sirene (German); Liberation, Gulliver, Revue d'?tudes Palestiniennes (French); Lettre Internationale (published in French, German, Italian and Spanish); Moderna Tider (Swedish).

    Anthologized Pieces (English)
    "The Drowned Library," in a collection of autobiographical essays by bilingual writers, edited by Isabelle de Courtivron, and published by St. Martin's Press (forthcoming).
    "Geister," and "Autokartographie: Der Fall Palestine, Michigan" in Rafik Schami, ed., ANGST: im eigenen land, Zurich: Nagel & Kimchi, 2001, p. 32-41; 114-125.
    "Autocartography: The Case of Palestine, Michigan," in The Geography of Identity, ed. by Patricia Yaeger (The University of Michigan Press, 1996).
    "Arab Male, Hebrew Female: The Lure of Metaphors," in Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East, ed. by Gocek and Balaghi (Columbia University Press, 1994).
    "Am?rka, Am?rka," in Visions of America, ed. by Wesley Brown & Amy Ling (New York: Persea Press, 1993).
    "Cultural Identity and the Crisis of Representation," in Critical Fictions: The Politics of Imaginative Writing, ed. by Philomena Mariani (Seattle: Bay Press, 1991).
    "At Half Mast," in New Perspectives on Israeli History, ed. by Laurence Silberstein (New York University Press, 1991).
    "Arafat's Types of Ambiguity," in What's Going On Here: The Harper's Magazine Book of Annotations, ed. by Colin Harrison (New York: Delta Press, 1991).
    "Exile from a Democracy," in Literature in Exile, ed. by John Glad (Duke University Press, 1990).
    "Diary," in Every Sixth Israeli, ed. by Alouph Hareven (Jerusalem: The Van Leer Foundation, 1983).

    Translations
    Hebrew into Arabic:
    M.Y. Schtekilis, Selected Poems and Stories (for children), Jerusalem 1972.
    Ka-Zetnik, Star Eternal, Jerusalem 1975.
    David Rokeah, Selected Poems, Jerusalem 1977.
    David Avidan, Selected Poems, Tel-Aviv 1982.
    The Doe Hunt, an anthology of 12 Hebrew short stories, Tel-Aviv 1984.

    Arabic into Hebrew:
    Three novels by the Palestinian writer Emile Habiby, which earned him Israel's Prize for Literature (1992): The Opssimist (1984), Ekhtayyeh (1988), Saraya (1993).

    Arabic into English:
    Three poems by Hilmy Salem (Banipal, No. 7, Spring 2000).
    Three poems by Salman Masalha (Banipal, No. 7, Spring 2000).
    Two poems by Mahmoud Darwish (Banipal, No. 4, Spring 1999).
    Three poems by Taha Muhammad Ali (Banipal, No. 2, Summer 1998).

    English into Arabic and Hebrew:
    Dario Fo, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist, an adaptation, for "The Arab Theater," Haifa, 1996.
    Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, a bilingual translation into Arabic and Hebrew for "Haifa Theater," Haifa, 1984, 1994.
    Harold Pinter, The Dumb Waiter and Victoria Station, 1986.
    Edward Albee, The Zoo Story, for "Beit Hagefen's Theater," Haifa, 1987 (Arabic).
    Athol Fugard, The Island, for "Haifa Theater," Haifa, 1983.

    REVIEWS OF ARABESQUES (English; partial list)
    "In Search of Identity: The Israeli Arab Artist in Anton Shammas's Arabesques," by Rachel Feldhay Brenner, PMLA, May 1993.
    "Seizing the Means of Representation," By Brian McHale, American Book Review, January-February 1990.
    "Family and Fable in Galilee," by William Gass, front page of The New York Times Book Review, April 17, 1988.
    "Satan's Work and Silted Cisterns," by John Updike, The New Yorker, October 17, 1988.
    "News From Elsewhere," by Irving Howe, The New York Review of Books, April Review, January-February 1990.
    "The New Question..." by Muhammad Siddiq, front page of Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 24, 1988.
    "Through Arab Eyes," by Fouad Ajami, The Washington Post Book World, May 8, 1988.
    "Six Miniatures on Anton Shammas's Arabesques," by Hannan Hever, Cultural Critique (The University of Minnesota), Fall 1987.
    "Cultural Exchange," by Ammiel Alcalay, The Jerusalem Post Magazine, December 12, 1986.

    EDITING
    The Hebrew translation of Elias Khoury's novel Bab al-Shams, published by Andalus, Tel-Aviv, 2002 (544 pages).

    PROFILE
    "An Arab Voice in Israel," by Gerald Marzorati, The New York Times Magazine, September 18, 1988.

  • Education
    • English and Arabic literatures, Art History, Hebrew University in Jerusalem