Model Role Details

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Sector : Cultural Figures , Writers

Personal Info

  • Country of residence : Iraq
  • Gender : Male
  • Born in : 1920
  • Age : 97
  • Curriculum vitae :


Born in Bethlehem in 1920, Jabra is a prolific writer and artist with works ranging from Palestinian novels, poetry, short stories, essays to paintings, literary and art criticism as well as Arabic translations of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. He began his studies at the Syriac school where he learnt English and Assyrian, continuing later at the Bethlehem National School. When he was 12 years old, he went to the Ar-Rashidiyyah School in Jerusalem. There he met outstanding teachers such as Abdul-Karim Al-Karmi, Ibrahim Touqan, and Ishaq Mousa Al-Husseini. Upon completion of his high school education, he studied at the Arab College in Jerusalem. 

Jabra was awarded a scholarship to study English literature in England and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943, then a master of arts in 1948 at Fitzwilliam House, Cambridge University. Back in Palestine after his successful studies, he taught English Literature  in Jerusalem for approximately five years, from 1943 till the end of the British mandate in 1948. Losing his home in 1948, he was forced into exile and went to Iraq, where he taught English Literature at the College of Arts of the University of Baghdad (1948-1952). Jabra played a key role in developing the art heritage in Palestine of the 1950s although he never returned to Bethlehem, which was truly a loss for the country.

While in Iraq, his literary career flourished. He contributed to the Iraqi art movement, and he became an active member of the Baghdad Modern Art Group established in 1951 under the direction of the preeminent Iraqi artist of the time, Jawad Salim.  His western observers described Jabra as striving to integrate Western thought with local aesthetic perspectives which served both his political stance vis-a-vis the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and the role of modernist art in the era of post-World War II.

Jabra died in Bagdad in 1994 leaving behind him an art inheritance that was unfortunately destroyed during the explosion of his house in April 2010. This tragic incident represented the loss of an important documentation of a stage in the Arab art movement in the mid-twentieth century which is now irreplaceable.


Achievements and Awards

  • Jabra’s massive contribution is dedicated to the translation of Shakespeare’s works which are equivalent to that of Russian translator Boris Pasternak’s translation. Such works are that of Hamlet’s tragedy; King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, the Tempest, Twelfth Night and Sonnet 50. Jabra not only translated Shakespeare’s work but also exclusive studies and bibliographical works on these tragedies such as Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary, John Dover Wilson’s What’s happening in Hamlet and Janet Delone.
  • Due to the fact that he referred back to previous incorrect fossilized translation, Jabra faced many problems during his translations. Although Jabra added notes in the beginning indicating these errors, he chose to keep the widespread incorrect translation such as that of Khalil Motran’s translation of Othello’s name to Ateel but changed insignificant errors such as the incorrect translation of the name Dedmona to Desdemona. Moreover, Jabra added notes explaining sentences that do not fit the general contest of the text such as Hamlet’s mother’s description of her son as a fat person.
  • Jabra explained that during one of his plays, Hamlet took the role of a fat person who was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite role. Yet Jabra could not escape critics such as Gali Shukri, a well known critic in the Arab world, who implies that in some cases Jabra’s translations were not so accurate. And Iraqi poet Sargon Boulus criticizes Jabra for removing one of Othello’s sentences “…the circumcised dog.” In Bolous’s opinion, Jabra removed this line because it may provoke the Islamic community.
  • In other cases, Boulus claims that Jabra can not present the Shakespearian spirit in the sonnets. The general reader may sense that Jabra’s translation is closer to the English spirit when using parallel sentences whereas Boulus’ translation is closer to the Arabic Abbasite texts.

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