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Zakaria Tamer was born in Al-Bahsa neighbourhood of Damascus on 2 January 1931. In 1944, at the age of 13, he was forced to leave school to provide for his family by working as a blacksmith in a factory in the neighbourhood. But he continued his education at night, reading Arab and foreign authors.

His first short stories were published in newspapers in the late 1950s. His talent caught the attention of Syrian poet Yusuf al-Khal, editor of the magazine Shi’r, who decided to publish Zakaria’s first collection Saheel al-Jawad al-Abyad (The Neighing of the White Horse) in 1960. Thanks to its success, he was offered a job as a government official in the Writers and Publishing Department of the Syrian Ministry of Culture (1960-1963), and from 1963 to 1965 he worked as an editor for Al-Mawqif Al-Adabi, a periodical of literary criticism. In 1963 Zakaria also published his second collection Rabi’a fi-l Ramad (Spring in the Ashes). In 1965-1966 he worked for Jeddah television in Saudi Arabia as a screenwriter.

Two years later he returned to Damascus where he started working at the Syria Ministry of Information and was head of Syrian television’s drama department 1967 to 1970. His third collection of short stories, Al-Ra’d (The Thunder), came out in 1970 followed by Dimashq alHaraiq (Damascus Fire) in 1973.

He worked as editor-in-chief of several magazines: Rafi’, a periodical for children, in 1970-1971, Al-Mawqif Al-Adabi from 1972 to 1975, the children magazine Osama, from 1975 to 1977, and the cultural magazine Al-Ma’rifa from 1978 to 1980. In addition, Zakaria Tamer took part in the establishment of the Arab Writers Union in Syria in 1969 and was its deputy chairman for four years.

In 1978 he published Al-Numur fi al-Yawm al-Ashir (The Tigers on the Tenth Day). A volume of stories, with the title story “Tigers on the Tenth Day”, featuring stories from different collections, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies was published by Quartet Books in 1985.

180 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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