Why Fawwaz Traboulsi?

1 October, 2023

Twenty years ago, it would have been Edward Said. It’s Traboulsi, his best translator, in 2023.


Amal Ghandour


Why one, I wondered? One Middle Eastern public intellectual, TMR asked. The most inspired and relevant, they specified. I quickly counted at least four of them as interpreters of my life. All inspired and relevant. I waited a minute; another three followed.

A Modern History of Lebanon by Fawwaz Traboulsi - Pluto Press
A stunning history of Lebanon over five centuries.

But if Jean-Paul Sartre’s definition of the intellectual as a “technician of practical knowledge” holds true (and it is TMR’s own cue), then Fawwaz Traboulsi exemplifies it. The sum of this 82 year-old sage is a decades-long remarkable union between implacable activism on the leftist front and the solitude of the pen. The pen as creator, as translator, as storyteller, as scholar, as analyst, as advocate, six vocations like feisty sisters in a boisterous house.

It’s the range and depth of Traboulsi’s intellectual quests that astound as well. There is no clear connection — that I can see at least — between his work and what obsesses many of us today, from the mystique of social media and its influencers to the seriousness of Artificial Intelligence and its consequences, but he is a master of contexts, old and new, and there is no real shape to the here and now without those.

But perhaps it’s the rigor of Traboulsi’s intellect and its accessibility that makes him my obvious choice. There is ideological anchor but no dogma in this man. He is forever contemporary, forever keen to engage across generations and aisles.

Twenty years ago, it would have been Edward Said. It’s Traboulsi, his best translator, in 2023.


Visit Fawwaz Traboulsi’s Goodreads page. 

Amal Ghandour’s career spans more than three decades in the fields of research, communication, and community development. She is an author (About This Man Called Ali) and a blogger (Thinking Fits, This Arab Life). Since 2009, she has held the position of Senior Strategy Adviser to Ruwwad al Tanmeyah, a regional community development initiative that spans Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt. Ghandour, who was special adviser to Columbia University’s Global Centers, Amman, from 2014 to 2017, sits on the Women Creating Change Leadership Council of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference and the Board of Trustees of International College, Lebanon. She has served on the Board of Directors of Ruwwad, Lebanon (2012-2022) and the Arab Human Rights Fund (2011-2014). Ghandour holds an MS in International Policy from Stanford University and a BSFS from Georgetown University. She is the author most recently of This Arab Life, A Generation’s Journey Into Silence, an intimate and honest exploration of a rising Arab generation’s descent into silence. Personal and panoramic, granular and sweeping, the book offers a raw account of the unremitting mire that anticipates the region’s present-day chaos.

Arabic literature in translationArabic translation

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