Colette Khoury

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Colette Khoury
Native name
Colette Khoury
(Arabic,كوليت خوري)
Born1931 (age 90–91)
Bab Tuma, Damascus, Syria
OccupationWriter, Professor, Poet, Member of Parliament
EducationB.A. in French Literature
Alma materDamascus University
Notable worksDays With Him
RelativesFares al-Khoury, grandfather
Suhail al-Khoury, father

Colette Khoury (Arabic: كوليت خوري) (also written as Kulit Khuri, Colette al al-Khuri, Colette Khuri) is a Syrian novelist and poet, born in 1931, who is also the granddaughter of former Syrian Prime Minister Faris al-Khoury. Khoury graduated from Damascus University with a bachelor's degree in French literature and she received a diploma from the school of literature in Beirut.[1] Khoury's notability stirs from her work in politics and literature. Her work as a writer focuses on love and erotica, a subject that was previously taboo in Syrian culture.


Early life[edit]

Colette was born into a notable family, as her grandfather, Faris al-Khoury is known as a hero for his resistance to the French. In addition, her father had been minister for village and town affairs.[2] Khoury was also very patriotic, as she wrote several collections of stories about the 1973 October War, also known as the Yom Kippur War one of which was called "Luminous Days" (1984).[2]

Writing career[edit]

Khoury was a pioneer of Arab feminism, and wrote angry stories in the 1950s about men and their selfishness.[2] Khoury's career began in 1957 and has spanned more than 6 decades. Her literary career began with the publication of a collection of poems in French entitled "Vingt Ans" (Beirut, 1958).[3] In it Khoury expressed her discontent with social constraints and the emptiness and aimlessness of her life; she also described her attempts to find salvation in love. Much of Khoury's work stemmed from her desire to avoid blatant retaliation; writing was the best and only way she could express herself.[4] Khoury dedicated her work to immersing herself in the female psyche, particularly defending women's right to love. Khoury once said, "Since I always felt the need to express what was welling up inside me...the need to protest, the need to scream...and since I didn't want to scream with a knife, I screamed with my fingers and became a writer." [5] Many of Khoury's stories covered topics like love and erotica, particularly from a female's perspective. Khoury has written more than 20 novels, as well as many political and literary articles.

In 1959, she shocked the Arab world with a novel in which she wrote openly about love; this breakthrough novel Ayyam Maahou (Days With Him) was the first time a woman had audaciously written about a subject considered taboo in conservative Syrian society.[6] Ayyam Maahou was inspired by a love affair with the legendary Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.[7] Colette created a strong woman in her story whose love was not so overpowering that it blinded her or made her weak, in order to maintain the image of a strong, female leader.[2] In the story, the protagonist and narrator, Rim, against society and her family, as she tries to develop her personal identity.[3] While Rim's parents died when she was young and thus never could dominate her adult life, her father's domineering presence still haunts her after he has passed.[3] Rim is also disgusted by the institution of marriage in its traditional form. In the story, she says forcefully, "No! I was not born only to learn cooking and then to marry, bear children, and die! If this is the rule in my country, I will be the exception. I do not want to marry!"(22) [3]

Two years later, she published "Layla wahida" (One night, 1961), which told a story about a night that the main character, Rasha, spent with a man who was a pilot in the French air force during World War II.[2] This story was more controversial due to the element of adultery as an aspect of self-enlightenment. Its married heroine, Rasha, tries to find herself and regain control of her life through an extramarital relationship after being forced to prey a 30-year-old man at the age of fifteen.[3] Her husband, Salim, approaches marriage as a business transaction, lacking emotion or compassion.[3] Salim treats Rasha like an object and she expresses her frustration around this by saying, "Did you consider even for one day that this woman whom you had brought to supplement the furniture of your house was a human being? That she was a human being, who would a thousand times prefer your sharing of one idea of yours over your offering her the most delicious food" (39).[3]

Political career[edit]

From 1990-1995, Colette Khoury served as an independent member of the Syrian parliament. In 2008, Khoury was appointed literary adivisor[7] to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. She currently writes for the Syrian governmental newspaper Al-Ba'ath on a broad range of political and literary issues.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Khoury has been twice married and divorced to the Spanish musician Rodrigo de Zayas,[9] who is a grandson of American diplomat Francis Burton Harrison and the son of Mexican artist Marius de Zayas. Khoury and Zayas have one child, a daughter, Mercedes Nara de Zayas y Khoury.[9]

Khoury's youthful affair with Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani inspired her 1961 novel Ayyām maʻah.[10]

Notable works[edit]

  • "Ayyām maʻah" (1961)
  • "Laylah wāḥidah" (1961)
  • "Kiyān" (1968)
  • "Dimashq baytī al-kabīr" (1970)
  • "Qiṣṣatān" (1972)
  • "Wa-marra ṣayf" (1975)
  • "Daʼwah ilá al-Qunayṭirah" (1976)
  • "al-Ayyām al-maḍīʼah : qiṣaṣ" (1984)
  • "Wa-marra ṣayf : riwāyah" (1985)
  • "Imraʼah : majmūʻat qiṣaṣ" (2000)
  • "al-Marḥalah al-murrah : qiṣaṣ ṭawīlah" (2002)
  • "Sa-talmisu aṣābiʻī al-shams : qiṣṣah ramzīyah" (2002)
  • "Fī al-zawāyā-- ḥakāyā : tisʻ qiṣaṣ wa-masraḥīyah" (2003)
  • "Kūlīt Khūrī : būḥ al-yāsmīn al-Dimashqī" (2008)
  • "Wa-yabqá al-waṭan fawqa al-jamīʻ" (2010)[11]


  1. ^ "Colette Khoury". Arab Cultural Trust. Archived from the original on 2014-09-19. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cooke, Miriam (2007). Dissident Syria. Duke University Press. pp. 42–47.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Zeidan, Joseph T. (1995). Arab women novelists : the formative years and beyond. Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York Press. pp. 104–111. ISBN 9780791421710.
  4. ^ Aghacy, Samira (2011). Masculine Identity in the Fiction of the Arab East Since 1967. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
  5. ^ Radwa Ashour; Ferial J. Ghazoul; Hasna Reda-Mekdashi, eds. (2008). Arab women writers a critical reference guide, 1873-1999. Translated by Mandy McClure. Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press. p. 68. ISBN 9789774162671.
  6. ^ Scott C. Davis (October 1, 2007). "Colette Khoury: Come see Syria first, then judge". Forward Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Syrian Writer Named Literary Adviser to President". Middle East Online Web. Archived from the original on 23 March 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  8. ^ Casey, James (2012). Syria: 1920 to Present: Middle East. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  9. ^ a b Crosshatching in Global Culture: A Dictionary of Modern Arab Writers: An Updated English Version of R.B. Campbell's Contemporary Arab Writers, Volume 101, Part 2, page 661
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2014-10-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Kulit Khuri". Library of Congress. Retrieved 6 October 2014.