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Biography

Hanna Mina was born in Latakia in 1924 to a very poor family. He spent the early years of his childhood in the Eskenderoun Brigade, in Swamp Street, until that area was annexed by Turkey in 1939, at which point he returned with his family to Latakia. Mina has had numerous occupations before settling to become one of the most celebrated writers in Syrian history. His work has been translated to many languages and his stories have been turned to popular television dramas.

Hanna Mina took a variety of menial jobs before becoming a writer. According to the site "SyriaStoryFriends", Mina claims that his most significant experience was as a porter in a seaport, which lead to a short-lived career as a seaman (one which created a lifelong passion for the sea). His next occupation was in bicycle repair; he then worked as a babysitter for a wealthy family; he also worked in a pharmacy then at a barber's. Later he became a reporter, then wrote radio dramas in colloquial Arabic before taking up the post of civil servant and finally turning to fiction writing.

Although he settled in Syria and has been living there for most of his life, yet he experienced difficult periods of exile during his formative years. The decade between 1941-1951 was spent mostly outside of his home country and is considered a period of enforced exile due to his social circumstances and his political views. During this time he lived in Beirut (1946), Damascus (1947), parts of Europe and 5 years in China.

Mina’s political views were shaped early in his life as he experienced the consequences of the reconfiguration of Syria’s geography after the end of the First World War in 1918. The end of WWI was followed by a period of military control over the territory that was previously controlled by the Ottoman Empire, which included Greater Syria; this military control was formalised by the League of Nations into a mandate in 1923. Mina was born during the French mandate (in 1924). When he was 10 years old, he joined a resistance movement that campaigned against French occupation; this early involvement in national politics led to more serious political engagements affiliated with the left, and which lasted until the 1960s when he abandoned politics for writing. In 1951 he was a founding member of the Writers’ Union in Syria. The Union held its first Congress in 1954, and it attracted authors from Syria and various Arab countries.

Mina’s writing draws heavily on his personal experiences. He has devoted 8 novels to the sea and to the life of sailors in Latakia. He writes about the poverty and deprivation that characterise the lives of the majority of Syrians living on the margins of major cities. He also writes about the complications of Syrian politics, depicting the consequences of governmental policies on ordinary citizens.

Mina lives in Damascus. He has fathered 5 children. His first son, Selim, died in the 1950s when the family was experiencing extreme poverty. His youngest son, Saad is an actor and has starred in dramas based on his father’s stories. Mina has 3 daughters: Salwa (a medical doctor), Sawsan (anaesthetist), Amal (civil engineer).