Hilal Chouman

Hilal Chouman


هلال شومان

Born in Beirut at the height of the civil war, Hilal Chouman is one of the foremost writers of Lebanon’s post-war generation. He is the author of five novels and a literary critic for various Arabic newspapers.

Chouman’s skill at capturing the struggles of millennials coming of age in a country beset by corruption, instability and trauma was established with Stories of Sleep (2008) and Napolitana (2010). Limbo Beirut (2012), composed of five interlinked stories set amid the violent clashes which took place in the city in May 2008, was a commercial success in Arabic and was subsequently translated into English. Reviewers called Chouman “a sharp, insightful writer” (Publishers Weekly) and praised the novel’s hybrid form for conveying “a collective, multidimensional truth that is richer than any one individual narrative” (Words Without Borders).

This adventurous approach to form has become one of the most distinctive characteristics of Chouman’s work. In Once Upon a Time, Tomorrow (2016), the narrative is punctuated by
newspaper, TV and radio features, which lend the novel a mesmerizing cinematic quality, while in Sadness in My Heart (2022), the narrative is propelled forward at whirlwind speed by chapters of 500 words or less.

Chouman has also been praised for his uniquely deft, sensitive portrayals of queer life in Lebanon. This theme comes most to the fore in Sadness in My Heart, a keenly felt reflection on queer love and what it can teach us about the meaning of family and roots.

His website (in Arabic): hilalchouman.com

His Instagram account: instagram.com

© Hilal Chouman
Date of birth : 1982
Country of birth: Lebanon
Country of residence: Canada
Contact: teneleven (agency)

Selected bibliography

  • حزن في قلبي , Sorrow in my Heart*, Khan Aljanub, Germany, 2022. English translation: excerpt available on Mada Masr, trans. by Suneela Mubayi; French translation: excerpt available on LEILA’s website, trans. by Lola Maselbas
  • كان غداً , Once Upon a Time Tomorrow*, Dar Al Saqi, Lebanon, 2017
  • ليمبو بيروت , Limbo Beirut*, Dar Al Tanweer, 2012. English translation: Limbo Beirut, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin, USA, 2016, trans. by Anna Ziajka Stanton
  • نابوليتانا, Napolitana*, Dar Al Adab, Lebanon, 2010. English translation: summary available on Raya Agency website
  • ما رواه النوم, Stories of Sleep*, Dar Malameh, Egypt, 2008

* Working title


The translation holds the spare and haunting rhythm of Chouman’s prose, which is so often simultaneously sad and beautiful “Lit & Found: Hilal Chouman’s ‘Sorrow in My Heart’” in ArabLit, March 2022 

The Beirut-born, Toronto-based Chouman explores the locality of Beirut, the home, from the lens of an outsider. He does this through linguistic experimentation,  where questions of identity, memory and loss are explored through fast-paced storytelling and a local tongue. “In Other Words: ‘Sorrow in my heart by’ Hilal Chouman” in Mada Masr, January 2022 

″Limbo Beirut″ is Hilal Chouman′s third novel, but his first to cross over into English. Beautifully translated by Anna Ziajka Stanton, this illustrated novel is a five-part portrait of interconnected lives, written in markedly different styles. “Book review: Hilal Chouman’s Limbo Beirut: Hybrid lives” in Qantara, November 2016 

The novel exemplifies how this current generation of Lebanese authors and artists has been able to interpret more recent conflicts. These accounts are full of inchoate memories of the last war, and disillusion with any future wars. “Book review: The nightmare returns for young Lebanese in Hilal Chouman’s Limbo Beirut” in The National, August 2016

Prizes and awards

  • Limbo Beirut was shortlisted for the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in 2017
  • Limbo Beirut was longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize in 2017

Book(s) featured on this site

Reviewed by Katharine Halls