Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dr Ghazi Abdul Rahman Al-Gosaibi غازي بن عبدالرحمن القصيبي (March 3, 1940 - August 15, 2010): Saudi Statesman and Novelist/Poet

Ghazi al-Gosaibi addresses the Jeddah Economic Forum (AFP)

There is a fine tradition of creative writers-statesmen, in both Western and Eastern cultures, but perhaps in recent decades more so in non-Western ones. These creative writers-statesmen have made major contributions to the development of their countries in their dual roles as cultural innovators and political participants. France's André Malraux, Senegal's Léopold Sédar Senghor, Martinique's Aimé Césaire, and Chile's Pablo Neruda all come to mind. Today I learned of another, sadly because of his death from stomach cancer.

Dr Al-Gosaibi, the current Minister of Labour, was known as a progressive, liberal political thinker and essayist who served as Saudi Ambassador to Bahrain (1984-1992), then to the UK (1992-2002), before resuming ministerial duties in Saudi Arabia. His earliest career was as an academic at King Saud University. He was a member of the prominent Najdi Al-Gosaibi family of businessmen, Saudi government representatives, and technocrats based in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, whose wealth was built on trade (first dates, then pearls).

There is some good information online about both the family and the late Dr Al-Gosaibi. His curriculum vitae at the Ministry of Labour is enlightening, and Wikipedia has serviceable entries on him and his family. I have copied and linked a number of the obituaries which each contain different elements of interest about his life.

SAUDI OFFICIAL: Ghazi Algosaibi has passed away after a lengthy illness,
according to Saudi media. (Getty Images)

Saudi Labor Minister Al-Gosaibi dies


Published: Aug 15, 2010 13:30 Updated: Aug 15, 2010 13:31

RIYADH: Saudi Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi died at the age of 70 after prolonged illness in Riyadh on Sunday. A source at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital told Arab News that the death occurred at 10 a.m. He died of cancer.

Al-Gosaibi, who served as labor minister until his death, was known as both a technocrat who served four kings and an author of numerous novels and nonfiction works, in addition to his poetry.

Before becoming the minister of labor in 2004, Al-Gosaibi held portfolio of Water and Electricity and was Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He was also a famous poet and novelist. Some his works were controversial, including a collection of poetry called “A Battle Without a Flag” and a novel called “Shuqat Al-Hurriyyah (The Apartment of Freedom), which were banned until recently.

He was born in Hofuf on March 3, 1940 to a prominent and wealthy family of traders. Al-Gosaibi earned a law degree at the University of Cairo in 1961, a master at the University of Southern California in 1964, and a doctorate of law at the University of London in 1970.

He was Saudi Ambassador to Bahrain from 1984 to 1992, and then to Britain from 1992-2002. He was respected by Saudi progressives for his boldness in pointing out the problems of conservative Saudi society.

Ghazi al-Gosaibi, Saudi diplomat, poet, dead at 70

(AFP) – 2 hours ago

RIYADH — Popular Saudi minister and poet Ghazi al-Gosaibi, who as envoy to Britain sparked outrage with an ode to a Palestinian suicide bomber, died Sunday at age 70, official Al-Akhbariya TV said.

He died of cancer in Riyadh's King Faisal Specialist Hospital, where he had been admitted about a month earlier, members of his entourage told AFP.

Gosaibi, who served as labour minister until his death, was known as both a technocrat who served four kings and an author of numerous novels and non-fiction works, in addition to his poetry.

He was Saudi ambassador to Bahrain from 1984 to 1992, and then to Britain from 1992-2002.

Gosaibi was respected by Saudi progressives for his boldness in pointing out the problems of conservative Saudi society.

As a minister charged with boosting employment among Saudis whom he said were only interested in high-paying, easy jobs, he served hamburgers in 2008 for three hours at a Jeddah fast food restaurant -- a job usually filled by foreign workers.

Gosaibi's penchant for speaking his mind got him into trouble at least twice in his career.

As minister of health in 1984, he was fired after publishing the poem "A Pen Bought and Sold" that assailed the corruption and privilege of the Saudi elite under then King Fahd.

In 2002 he was removed as ambassador in London after publishing "You are the Martyrs", an ode to Palestinian teenager Ayat Akhras, who blew herself up two weeks earlier in a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two Israelis.

The poem which praised Akhras as the "bride of the heavens" who "stands up to the criminal" and "kisses death with a smile" outraged many -- with the 2001 September 11 attacks on the United States still fresh in memory.

Gosaibi was born in Hofuf, eastern Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 1940 to a prominent and wealthy family of traders.

He earned a law degree at the University of Cairo in 1961, a masters at the University of Southern California in 1964, and a doctorate of law at the University of London in 1970.

In the 1970s he was director of the Saudi Railways Organisation, and then moved to minister of industry and electricity, where he helped pioneer development of the Saudi petrochemicals industry. After his recall from London he also served as minister of water and electricity.

As Saudi ambassador to Bahrain when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, he wrote articles blasting Arab governments and Islamist groups who criticised the Saudi-US alliance, asking how they could defend Saddam Hussein.

His 1993 book "The Gulf Crisis: An Attempt to Understand" was a hard-eyed look from the perspective of the Gulf in the war.

He published dozens of books, including essays, poetry, and love stories, some of which faced bans in his own country.

His best-known novel, "An Apartment Called Freedom" (1996), chronicled the lives of four young Bahrainis leaving their family cocoons and plunging into freewheeling, turbulent 1950s Cairo to attend university.

In 1999 he lost to Japanese Koichiro Matsuura in the race for director general of UNESCO, undermined in part by criticism that as a Saudi official, he lacked a record of standing up for civil rights and cultural freedoms.

After the September 11 attacks, he warned of a looming "clash of civilisations" and condemned Saudi-born Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a "human monster."

"We are worried that this has turned from a war against terrorism, which we support wholeheartedly and with no reservation, into a war of America or the West against Islam," he told the BBC.

Hard Talk interview of Saudi Ambassador to the UK Dr Al Ghosaibi by Alan Little

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Labour dies, aged 70

by Bloomberg on Sunday, 15 August 2010

Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Ghazi Algosaibi died on Sunday at the age of 70 after a career as a diplomat, government minister and author, Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

Algosaibi was admitted to Riyadh’s King Faisal Specialist Hospital about a month ago for treatment for cancer, the Dubai- based news channel said on its website, without saying where it got the information. He had received medical care in the US, it said.

Algosaibi served four Saudi kings in different government positions, including as the minister of health and the minister of water and electricity in the Arab world’s largest economy. He was appointed labor minister in 2004.

His diplomatic career spanned the first Gulf War, when U.S.-led forces ousted Iraq’s troops from Kuwait in 1991, and the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks against the US in September 2001. He was Saudi ambassador to Bahrain from 1984 to 1992, after which he was appointed Saudi ambassador to the U.K., a post he held until 2002.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp after the terror attacks in the US, Algosaibi said that while the Saudi government supported the US-led war against terrorism, it was worried that this had turned into a fight against Islam.

Algosaibi wrote novels, poetry and essays, some of which were banned in the Islamic state because of their focus on the problems of conservative Saudi society. He was removed from his post as ambassador to the UK after publishing poetry in an Arabic-language newspaper that some interpreted as glorifying a Palestinian suicide bomber.

His work “The Gulf Crisis” provides an insider’s account of the Arab reaction to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. “A Love Story,” published in 2002, describes the life of a novelist dying in a hospital bed through dreams and memories of his love affair with a married woman.

Algosaibi earned a law degree from Cairo University, a masters in international relations from the University of Southern California and a doctorate from the University of London, Al-Arabiya said. He was born in March 1940 in the oasis city of Hofuf in the east of Saudi Arabia.

As a progressive and liberal critic of conservative Saudi society, Dr Al-Gosaibi's books were banned in Saudi until a month prior to his passing. The ban was lifted while he was seeking cancer treatment in the US before returning to Riyadh, and care at King Faisal Specialist Hospital.

Saudi Arabia ends ban on minister's books

RIYADH | Sun Aug 1, 2010 9:04pm IST

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on books written by its ailing labour minister whose liberal tone provoked both the official clerical establishment and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, government officials said on Sunday.

Ghazi Algosaibi, 70, is a former ambassador to London and a confidant of King Abdullah whose push for reform has fostered divisions among senior members of the religious establishment and between reformists and the most conservative clerics.

Algosaibi, who is undergoing medical treatment abroad, has occupied government and diplomatic positions and played a key role in the setting up of state-controlled Saudi Basic Industries Corp, the kingdom's largest listed company.

Bin Laden singled out Algosaibi in a taped message from his hideout in 2006 as a liberal fifth columnist.

Novelists publishing inside Saudi Arabia usually submit their work to the ministry of information in advance. Only a handful are technically banned, and many writers resort to Arab publishers outside Saudi Arabia and leave individual bookstores inside the country the choice of whether to risk importing them.

The kingdom, a key U.S. ally, is ruled by the Al Saud family in alliance with clerics from the austere Wahhabi school of Islam who oversee mosques, the judiciary and education, as well as running police who enforce religious morality.

Interior ministry police work with the morals squad to make sure unrelated men and women are kept apart, that women are covered from head to toe and do not drive, and that sharia law is fully implemented including a ban on alcohol.

Rulers of the world's top oil exporter country have wrestled with the idea of moderating Wahhabism since the 2001 attacks on the U.S., carried out mostly by Saudis, and the emergence of al Qaeda militancy against the Saudi government in 2003.

(Reporting by Souhail Karaml; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Dr Al-Gosaibi wrote an autobiography of his "life in administration":

YES, (SAUDI) MINISTER : A Life in Administration [Ghazi A Algosaibi]

Born into a leading merchant family in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, Dr Algosaibi not only experienced but, as Minister for Industry and Electricity and Minister of Health, played a leading part in the Kingdom’s rapid modernisation during the 1970s and 1980s. In this administrative autobiography, we are treated to the wit and wisdom of one of Saudi Arabia’s leading technocrats who, as poet, writer, broadcaster and, latterly, ambassador, is also one of its most prominent intellectuals and gifted communicators. In recounting his career, he provides us with a series of profound and penetrating insights into the relationship between the political leadership, the executive and the administrative machine. Along the way we are given an insider’s view of the personalities of successive monarchs, the whirlwind transformation of the Kingdom’s infrastructure, the tensions between conservatives and modernisers, and Saudi Arabia’s relations with its neighbours. In Dr Algosaibi’s view of the human condition, we are all victims of administration from the day we are born, and inevitably grow up to be perpetrators of it too. Illustrating his story with vivid and occasionally hilarious incident, he reflects on what he calls his own "aggressive" style of administration in contrast to the “defensive” style, the pitfalls of popularity and media stardom, the requirements of education and development, the relative merits of state ownership and privatisation, the challenges of national healthcare, and the claims of family life. The book is packed with judicious tips for budding administrators and diplomats. All those interested in the workings of government in this most conservative of modern Islamic states will find in Dr Algosaibi’s life in administration an essential and entertaining companion.

REVIEW: "...proves conclusively how anyone with outstanding brainpower allied to drive and determination will rise almost inevitably to the top. ... It is a book that should be read by all who seek to gain an understanding of the workings of the highly complex country that is Saudi Arabia today." -- Peter Sincock, RUSI Journal (Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies), December 1999. "...a sparkling account spiced with humour and verve. Those readers who know the reticence of Arab society will be struck by the book’s frankness. ...and his comparison of the diplomatic services of the West with those of the Arab states [is] full of meat and controversy." -- Sir James Craig, Asian Affairs, February 2000.

{ 259pp, 155x235mm, January 1999; HB, £20.00, 1900404176:9781900404174 , Arabian Publishing Ltd (The London Centre of Arab Studies) }

A number of his creative works, both prose and poetry, are available in English or in bilingual editions. Some follow, with excerpts from their entries.

Treasury of Arabic Love: Poems, Quotations & Proverbs in Arabic and English [Hardcover]
Farid Bitar (Editor), Ghazi Abd Al-Rahman Qusaybi (Editor), Ghazi A. Algosaibi (Translator)
[extensive excerpts available at the Amazon site]

Seven: A Novel

Gulnar, a mythical embodiment of womanhood, relates the tale of the seven men from Araby, ostensibly the crème de la crème of the nation, the pillars of rectitude and the symbols of power and influence. They all coveted her body and only sheer lust after her made them agree to make it to her Greek Island. But Gulnar was of no easy virtue and would give herself only to the one proving to be the most enthralling. A contest was staged and each of the seven men had to relate his own story: the events of the most exciting week in his life . . . Seven is a daring novel in both form and content. The ironic version of the Sheherazade archetype is a daring challenge to an entire poetics and more vocally to the ethical decay of an entire nation. The narrative vehicle of the memoir-within-memoir is used to fascinating effect, and the intertextuality is powerful. Equally poignant is the irony and the self-revelation, the veiled social critique and the laying bare of rotten values taken on trust for far too long.

Dusting The Color From Roses

Dusting the Colour from Roses is a bilingual (Arabic/English) collection of poems by one of the Arabian Gulf's major literary figures. Ghazi Algosaibi's themes are universal ­ love, death, the passage of time and the passing of the seasons. The voice in his poems, while unmistakably his own, draws on a wealth of traditions including the classical, the chivalric, the neo-classical and the modernist.

The translation from the Arabic has been revised and reworked by the British poetess Heather Lawton. The Arabic and English versions are printed on facing pages, allowing the reader with some knowledge of Arabic to follow the original text.

A Love Story

A Love Story is a poignant reflection on passionate, enduring love and the joys and tragedies of life. Through a sequence of dreams, flashbacks and conversations, Yacoub Iryan, a dying novelist, reflects upon his life, his achievements and his passionate, yet fleeting love affair with a married woman. Lying in his hospital bed, Iryan's conversations with his humorous nurse, Helen, his doctors and his fellow patients paint the picture of an intelligent and enlightened man obsessed with a memory that is fading as his body grows weaker.

'In this novel love has a generic, fabulous quality. Poignant and poetic, A Love Story provides the English reader with a view of an unfamiliar side of modern Saudi culture, one which is refreshingly at odds with the current climate of international misunderstanding.' TLS 'Reading A Love Story is a purely pleasurable experience. Algosaibi's language retains the lyrical freshness that comes from his poetry. A fragile and touching vision, with much gentle humour, it should be enjoyed in a single sitting and leave the reader wanting more.' Richard Woffenden, Cairo Times 'Imbued with the energy, originality, breadth of knowledge and sense of fun that reflect the author's own personality. The tone of A Love Story is contemplative and tender, its characters well drawn and convincing.' Susannah Tarbush, Saudi Gazette

Revolution In The Sunnah

These seven short essays provide a brief and cogent overview of selected Hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad used as sources for religious law) that the author contends were not only revolutionary for their time but have retained their potential to drastically revolutionize Islamic societies today. Each Hadith is presented in the words of classical Muslim commentators, followed by Algosaibi's interpretation. He frames the Hadiths as they can and should be applied to contemporary circumstances, lending new vitality to modern Muslim social and political life. A bold and clearly reasoned call for reform, A Revolution in the Sunnah concisely demonstrates the progressive urge at the core of Islamic tradition. The topics covered are political integrity; the role of women in society and the military; civil rights; privacy; cruelty to animals; family planning; and torture.

Lyrics from Arabia
[Al Gosaibi Author and Photographer]

This collection of short poems where each appears in the three languages Arabic, Urdu and English gives you an excellent insight into the Bayt form of classical Arab poetry. The Bayt is a single line within a Qasida and is a semi-autonomous poem within the poem. Each line is taken from a classic Arab poem that appeared in the last thousand years.
Some examples are:

To the young maiden
I became a respected uncle;
but in the days of youth
I was a mate.

Were you and I to die in the same day, please be last.

This book is well worth reading, it expands your horizons in terms of what poetry can achieve. It would be interesting to hear the lines in Arabic and Urdu. --Customer review

An Arabic bibliography of Dr Al-Gosaibi's works includes:

* Shiqat Al-Hurryah, 1994.
* Al-Asfooryah, 1996.
* Denesco, 2002.
* Rajolon Ja'a Wa Thahab, 2002
* Salma, 2002.
* Saba'ah, 2003.
* Hekayat Hub , 2004
* Abu Shalakh Al-Barma'ai, 2006.
* Al-Jeneyyah, 2006

Condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and admirers of
Dr Ghazi Abdul Rahman Al-Gosaibi
 غازي بن عبدالرحمن القصيبي
(March 3, 1940 - August 15, 2010)
May he rest in peace

Please share your wishes, thoughts, or comments.


Susanne said...

Very informative post on this man. Thanks for sharing.

I love the last picture!

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

Hello there,
Thanks for this fantastic entry.

He was a remarkable man by all means, الله يرحمه

Thanks again for this review.


Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comment. I am glad you found the post informative. That last picture is splendid, isn't it!

Haitham--Welcome, and thank you for your comment and kind words. I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on older and newer posts as well. Thanks again! :)

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Thank you so much, Chiara for this post!

Dr. Al-Gosaibi is actually much more than what is said! He is one of a kind and no other Saudi poet is like him!
He is from the generation of great men, who are starting to vanish from our society one after another.

Perhaps many people didn't like him because of his liberal ideas, yet he was a liberal thinker with values and principles that he was always keen on holding.

Personally, I am concerned with his poetry, which shows his tender and romantic side as a human being and a true gentleman.

Thank you for this amazing post and for your efforts!

Chiara said...

Maha--thank you for your comment, and for sharing your personal knowledge. I am aware that many Saudis have been grieving the loss of this exceptional man. One can only take heart that his ideas live on in his writings and that he will continue to influence Saudi socio-political and cultural thought through them. Thanks again for your comment and your kind words! :)

Majed said...

Thank you for this Wonderfull summary about the life of a man who got in life fair share of attention and fame that he well-deserved . We pray to Allah the Almighty to embrace him with mercy along with his righteous servants and to rest him in peace in paradise.
the poem he said in eulogizing the martyrdom of Ayat al-Akhras, through which he uttered his sorrow and grief over the life of a Bud who sacrificed her life for her homeland and the dignity a billion living dead , it is a rare stance when an arab offical be true to himself and shows an iota of moral courage to give a chance to his conscience and inner-self to at least lament disgrace and honor heros, without any regard to the consequences of his actions.
this one achievment of his life is sufficient for me to love and honor Al-Qusaibi (Rahmatullah Alaih).
here are excerpts for an interview with him after publishing his controversial poem ( )

Chiara said...

Majed--Thank you for your comment and your lovely words. Thank you especially for sharing your knowledge and link! :)
I will read the poem more carefully, but in general I do think that American foreign policy plays a role in how the USA is viewed by others. :)
Thanks again!

Louai EL Habib said...

Thank you so much for these impressive information about this exceptional writer. In fact, I have never heard of him before, but I am sure now I'll be searching for his books here in Morocco. I came across his obituary in some international newspapers and I check him. I ended reading what you wrote here.

Thank you so much for this enriching blog Chriara.

Chiara said...

Louai-Welcome to my blog, and thank you for your kind comment! I am glad you came to know this man through the post, and I too will be looking for his books (my first efforts in Canada have been unsuccessful). I notice from your Blogger profile that you are in Taroudant. I almost made it there, but didn't go farther south than Agadir when I was in that region. Quel beau pays, le Maroc! :)
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on older and newer posts of interest, including the French ones! :) Thanks again for your comment here!

Nadia said...

Thank you so much for the collection of works/professional history/news articles...Dr Al Gosaibi was a minister of Health Also . I met him then at King Faisal Specialist Hospital (where he died).
Then and now , I say the arab world needs a few wise,open minded ,intelligent leaders like him.
I will start reading his books again.
Hope someone can add some information about his present family (wife and children).
My condolences and may he rest in peace.

Chiara said...

Nadia-Welcome to my blog and thank you for your kind comment. I will look for more information and reply more fully. In the meantime please comment on older and newer posts of interest, and thank you again for your comment here!


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