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The Syrian Author and Playwright Saadallah Wannous: 2005

In 2005, the Syrian Post issued a set of three stamps about contemporary Syrian writers. This stamps represents the Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous.

Saadallah Wannous (1941-1997) was born in the coastal village of Husayn al-Bahr, near the city of Tartus. He received his primary education at the village school, then continued his secondary education in Tartous, and then moved to Cairo to study journalism. He obtained a BA in Journalism from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Cairo University in 1963.

The beginnings of Saadallah Wannous

Saadallah Wannous has held many positions related to culture and art. After his return from Cairo, he was assigned to supervise the criticism section of the “Al-Maarifa” magazine, which is issued by the Syrian Ministry of Culture. Then he moved to work as the editor-in-chief of Osama’s children’s magazine. He also contributed with a number of Syrian playwrights to the establishment of the first Damascus Theater Festival in 1969. During the festival two of his plays were shown, namely “The Elephant, O King of Time” directed by Aladdin Kokash, and the play “The Tragedy of the Poor Molasses Seller” directed by Rafiq Al-Sabban.

Syria 2005 Saadallah Wannous
Syria 2005: the playwright Saadallah Wannous

In the mid-seventies, Wannous moved to Beirut, where he worked as an editor for the cultural pages of the Lebanese newspapers As-Safir and the Syrian Revolution. However, after the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, he was forced to return to Damascus, where he was appointed director of the experimental theater at the Qabbani Theatre. In the late seventies, Wannous contributed to the establishment of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus, and worked as a teacher there. He also published “the theater life” magazine, and served as its editor-in-chief.

Theatrical production of Saadallah Wannous

Night Party for June 5
Cover of the play Night Party for June 5

Saadallah Wannous’s writings were influenced from the beginning by the political events in the region, in particular, the developments of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Throughout his life, the writer presented numerous plays, as well as literary writings, texts on art and politics, and commentaries on plays of foreign authors. Many of his works have also been translated into several languages and presented in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Germany.

Saadallah Wannous’s plays have always dealt with a political and social critique of the Arab reality, as his first plays entitled “Life forever” were inspired by the end of the unity between Syria and Egypt. He wrote this play at the beginning of his literary life in 1961, but it was not published. The writer put the final touches on it two months before his death, and it was not published until after 2005, that is, eight years after his death.

In 1964, he published three short plays in the Beirut “Literature Journal” and the “Arab Position” in Damascus, which are the plays “Fasd al-Dam”, “A Corpse on the Pavement”, and “The Tragedy of the Poor Molasses Seller”. In 1965, the first Wannous theatrical collections were released by the Syrian Ministry of Culture, under the title “Tales of the Statues Choir”. The group included six short plays, including “Pinball”, “Corpse on the Pavement”, “Locusts”, “The Glass Café”, and “The Unknown Messenger at the Antigona Funeral”.

"The tragedy of the poor molasses seller"
Cover of the play “The tragedy of the poor molasses seller”

Following the defeat of 1967, Wannous wrote the play “Night Party for June 5”, which was banned from playing in Syria, but it was played in Algeria, Iraq and Sudan. In 1969, Wannous wrote the play “The Elephant, O King of Time”, in which he deals with the injustice of the ruler and the fear of the people. In 1971, he wrote the play “Ras al-Mamluk Jaber”, a play that takes place in the last era of the Abbasid state. In this play, he criticizes the ruler’s selfishness, betrayal of the courtiers, and the weakness and servility of the people. Saadallah Wannous’s writings carried a political and social critique of the Arab reality, the last of which was the play “Drunken Days”, which was published in the year of his death.

Saadallah Wannous’s writings have been translated into several languages, including French, English, Spanish, German and Russian. His works have also been presented in several Arab and European countries.

Among his theatrical works

• The Elephant, O King of Time (1969)

Cover of "Rituals of Signs and Transformations"
Cover of “Rituals, Signs and Transformations”

• Summer Party for Five June 5 (1968)

• The Adventure of the Head of the Mamluk Jaber (1971)

• The King is the King (1977)

• Handala’s Journey from Inattention to Vigilance (1978).

• The rape (1990)

• Historical miniatures (1994)

• Rituals, Signs and Metamorphoses (1994)

• Naughty Dreams (1995)

• A Day in Our Time (1995)

• The Mirage Epic (1996)

• Drunken Days (1997)

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