Osama Alomar

Acclaimed Syrian Author

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  • An Evening with Osama Alomar


“With their strange wisdom, wild personification, and fatalism, these miniature parables, or prose-poems, helped give words to the absurdly frustrating and sometimes terrifying experience of life in the Assad police state in the decade leading up to the Syrian Revolution. Alomar writes from a deep-seated belief in the act of writing as capable of transcending place and time.” —Lydia Davis 

“Alomar’s sly moral fables and sharp political allegories are shrewd and full of intelligence.” —Chicago Review of Books

“Transcending their less-than-lofty origins, Alomar’s enigmatic flash fictions blur the lines between aphorism, parable, and fairy tale, often personifying household objects and animals to comment on modern politics and the human condition.” –Vice Magazine

“If you laugh, it means you have immunity against hate. This is my responsibility as a writer, to keep writing about love, human rights, human dignity.” –Osama Alomar

In his hometown of Damascus, Osama Alomar is one of the most highly regarded, prize-winning writers in Syria, author of four books and many journal publications. He is a prominent practitioner of, and heir to, the Arabic literary form al-qisa al-qasira jiddan (“very short story”)—a form that dates back more than a millennium in the Arab world and contains elements of poetry, philosophy, folk tale, and allegory. In 2008, Alomar came to the United States to join his mother and older brother, who had emigrated in the 1990s; he has since lived in Chicago, working as a cab driver at the Horizon Taxi Cab Company. In a New York Times article, Alomar is quoted as saying, “Driving a cab is hard work and very hard psychologically, because it takes me away from writing. It is a kind of spiritual exile to go with my physical exile.”

After years of literary obscurity, in 2014 Alomar’s literary flame was rekindled by the excitement surrounding the publication of Fullblood Arabian, a collection of stories issued by New Directions as part of their renowned poetry series; then in 2017, New Directions released The Teeth of the Comb, Alomar’s first full-length collection of stories, about which Kirkus Review wrote, “all are masterpieces of compression, presented with the generally unironic matter-of-factness of a fable that, no matter how improbable the circumstances, behaves perfectly well according to its own logic: that knife could be literal just as easily as metaphorical, considering the violence and mayhem of the world.” Alomar’s poetic fictions are strange, often humorously satirical allegories, where good and evil battle with indifference, avarice, and compassion alongside striking imagery and effervescent language. Lydia Davis describes them as “wasting no words…they go quickly from one moment to the next and on to the end. So they have density, but also are sort of explosive, with an aftershock, because they seem to tell one story at the same time they are telling another.” Artsfuse Boston noted, “Alomar makes ample use of Middle Eastern traditions in his work. But, given its focus on hunger around the world, his stories are very much addressed to an international readership.”

In English, Alomar has been published by Noon, Conjunctions.com, The Coffin Factory, The Outlet (the blog of Electric Literature), Ploughshares, Southern Review, Vice Online, Gigantic, Dissent, and The Literary Review. In Arabic, he has also published three collections of short stories: Ayuha al-insaan (O Man), Rabtat Lisaan (Tongue Tie), and Jami’ al-huquq ghayr mahfuza (All Rights Not Reserved); and one volume of poetry, qaala insaan al’ asir al hadith (Man Said the Modern World).  He is a regular contributor to various newspapers and journals in Syria and the Arab world, among them Tishrin, an-Nur, Spot Light, al-Halil, Adab wa Naqd, and al-Ghad.

Christian Collins, Alomar’s translator, writes: “Osama and I made these translations together in difficult circumstances: most were done in the front seat of his taxi in a Chicago suburb heavy with the ache of immigration and the unimaginable pain of watching one’s country implode from afar. With books and dictionaries piled on the dashboard, hoping the taxi line wouldn’t advance too quickly and force us to break our concentration with another ‘load,’ we were able to make some part of that lost world in Damascus live again, however briefly. May the act of bringing forth this significant Syrian voice in English serve to continue this spirit of understanding and tolerance, bringing depth and nuance to a situation and a part of the world too often reduced in American eyes to a violent caricature of the truth.”

Short Bio

Born in Damascus, Syria in 1968 and now living in Chicago, Osama Alomar is one of the most well-respected Arabic poets writing today, and a prominent practitioner of the Arabic al-qisa al-qasira jiddan, the “very short story.” He is the author of Fullblood Arabian in English, and three collections of short stories and a volume of poetry in Arabic. Alomar’s first full-length collection of stories, The Teeth of the Comb, will be published by New Directions in April 2017. His short stories have been published by Newyorker.com, Noon, Conjunctions.com, The Coffin Factory, Electric Literature, and The Literary Review. He also performs as a musician. Osama Alomar travels with his translator, Christian Collins.



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