Amir Tag Elsir

Amir Tag Elsir

Amir Tag Elsir, a Sudanese novelist and medical doctor born in 1960, has carved a niche for himself in the literary and critical spheres, both nationally and internationally. His first novel, “Karmakul,” published in 1988, marked the beginning of his literary journey. In 2015, he was awarded the Katara Prize for Arabic Novel for his work “366,” a mix of love and crime. His novel “The Grub Hunter” made it to the shortlist for the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2011, and another of his works, “Flowers in Flames,” was shortlisted for the same prize in 2018.

Born in Northern Sudan and educated at Tanta University in Egypt, Tag Elsir is closely related to the renowned Sudanese writer Al-Tayeb Salih. He started writing at a very young age, first dabbling in detective stories during primary school and then venturing into poetry during his middle school years. Many of his poems were later sung by artists. His poetry writing continued during his medical studies, resulting in publications of poetry collections in Sudanese colloquial language. In 1985, he began writing poetry in classical Arabic, which was published in major magazines such as “Cairo,” “Ibdaa,” “Al-Majalla,” and “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.” Despite expectations from his friends that he would continue in poetry, in 1988 he ventured into novel-writing with “Karmakul,” a work that he financed by pawning his watch. The novel was a success, especially in Cairo, which encouraged him to continue writing.

After returning to Sudan, he began his medical practice and worked in remote areas. Due to his busy work life and self-development in the medical field, he took a long break from writing until he moved to Doha, Qatar, in 1993 to work as an internal medicine doctor. In 1996, after a decade-long hiatus from writing, he penned his second novel, “Sky of Sapphire Color,” inspired by Northern Sudan. This was followed by other novels like “Fire of Ululations,” “Coastal Mirrors” – a narrative about Port Sudan, and “The Biography of Pain,” which was serialized in the Qatari newspaper “Al-Watan.”

The real breakthrough in his writing career came in 2002 with his novel “The Dowry of Virgins,” which gained widespread recognition and was partially translated. This historical novel, set in Darfur in the 18th century, revolves around the life of a poor drum maker’s son, Adam Nazar, whose life intertwines with other characters in a complex narrative that blends reality, fantasy, and mythology, concealing a message and symbolism that captivates readers. This story was inspired by a book written by an Arab traveler to Sudan in the 17th century.

Other notable works by Tag Elsir include “The Ants’ March,” a novel where narrative and poetry intertwine, featuring songs that serve as satirical interludes in the fast-paced storytelling; “The Copt’s Tensions,” a historical novel set during a religious revolution; “French Perfume,” which revolves around a French star’s anticipated visit to a remote Sudanese city; and “The Grub Hunter,” a novel about Abdullah Harbash, a retired security man turned novelist. “Ebola ’76,” published in 2012, tells the story of Louis Nawab, a young man from a poor neighborhood in South Sudan, who unwittingly becomes a carrier of the Ebola virus.

His novel “Land of Sudan: The Sweet and The Bitter,” published in 2012, recounts the journey of an Englishman, Gilbert Osman, to Sudan in the 19th century, immersing himself in Sudanese society and experiencing cultural clashes between the East and the West. “Ritual,” published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, reached the longlist for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

Tag Elsir has authored numerous other works, including novels, poetry collections, essays, and articles, exploring various aspects of Sudanese life and culture. His prolific writing spans a wide array of themes and styles, contributing significantly to Sudanese and Arabic literature.

Books Written by Amir Tag Elsir