Why was Killing Scheherazade Necessary?


Joumana Haddad

The Lebanese writer and journalist Joumana Haddad dared to put an end to one of the world’s most well-known Middle Eastern literary figures: Scheherazade.

For Haddad, this centuries-old literary figure should no longer represent the reality and attitude of Arab women. In this talk/testimony, Haddad recalls the good, the bad and the ugly that have made her the woman she is today, despite the two-faceted hypocrisy that has become an integral element of Lebanese Arab culture, and all the challenges of being raised during the civil war in Lebanon. Also, Haddad raises questions about the prevalent notions of identity and womanhood in the Middle East, and speaks of her own development as a woman and writer, in an attempt to explore some common elements of what it means to be an Arab woman today.

Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese poet, translator, journalist and women's rights activist. She is head of the cultural page for the prestigious "An Nahar" newspaper, as well as an instructor of creative writing and modern Arabic poetry at the Lebanese American university in Beirut. She has been selected as one of the world’s 100 most powerful Arab women for the 3 past consecutive years by Arabian Business magazine (position 36th in 2016), for her cultural and social activism.

Haddad has published several books, in poetry and prose. Her works have been translated to many languages. Her most recent publications are the trilogy essays “I killed Scheherazade”, “Superman is an Arab” and “The Third Sex”. She has received numerous international prizes for her literary career as well as her human rights activism.

Speaking seven languages, Haddad is a polyglot and has written books in different languages, and has also published several works of translation, including an anthology of 150 poets who committed suicide in the 20th century.

She is also the founder of Jasad, a controversial Arabic-language magazine specialized in arts and literature of the body, which ran for two years (2010 and 2011), before being discontinued for financial reasons.