Sonallah Ibrahim was born in Cairo in 1937.
1952 he began to study law and worked as freelance journalist and translator.
As a result of his political activities he was arrested several times and
finally given a prison sentence of five years and six months during Nasser’s campaign against leftists
His first novel Tilka r-ra’iha (The Smell of It) was published
in 1966. The novel was confiscated immediately after publication.. It
appeared in incomplete versions several times before it was finally published
in full version 1986, in three different editions in Khartoum, Cairo and Casablanca.
After his dismissal Sonallah Ibrahim worked 1967 for the Egyptian news
agency Middle East News Agency (MENA). In 1968 he moved to East-Berlin; there
he worked for the East German news agency ADN from 1968 until 1971.
Sonallah Ibrahim translated The Enemy, a novel by the American writer
James Drought, into Arabic. Also he translated Brudians Esel, a novel
by the German author GŁnter de Bruyn and different works of prose by Western
authors which were published in 1994 in an anthology under the title at-Tagriba
al-unthawiyya (‘Female Experience’).
Since 1975 he gave up working to be able to concentrate on his writings. It
was this year that he got married.
He wrote several novels and short stories for younger readers as method of
education, for example he wrote a novel on animal and plant live in the Red Sea.
In 1992 Sonallah Ibrahim received the Ghalib-Halsa-Award from the Jordanian
Author’s Union and in
1994 the Sultan-Uwais-Award (United Arab Emirates). 1998 he rejected the Naguib Mahfuz-Prize of the American University in Cairo. He also
decided to refuse the Arabic Novel Award which was offered to him in 2003 by
the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. In his speech he explained his reasons by
criticising the political attitude of Egypt and other Arab states to the American predominance, being
obsequious to American dictation, he also criticized their ignoring Israeli
occupation and destroying war against the Palestinian People.
One of his most important works is his novel al-Lagna (The Committee)
1981, which is distinguished by the use of intertextual references to
contemporary history. It deals with the influence of global markets and
expanding capitalist concerns on the continents worldwide.
Beirut Beirut (1984) is about the Civil war in Lebanon.
Dhat (1992) and Sharaf (1997) deal about the difficult reality
that Egyptian society is confronted with after the policy of liberal market
during Sadat’s regime.
Warda (2000) is a novel on the struggle for liberation led by Zuffar
Sonallah Ibrahim’s last work is his novel Amrikanli (Americanish)
2003 - It is the story of an Egyptian professor who is teaching history at an
American university, the history of both countries are being compared. The
title consists of three words “Amri kana li” that are put
together in one word meaning: Once I was my own master.