R. M. Reşit el-Kudari
Arif Khudairi was born in Luxor and grew up in Aswan, a city approximately 200 km south of Luxor. In 1966 he attended the Faculty of Arts, University of Cairo where he studied at the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. In the years 1966-1970 he received his tertiary education in literature from distinguished Egytian writers and critics such as Suhair Al-Qalamawi, Shawqi Daif, Yusuf Khulaif, Muhammad Shukri Ayyad, Nu'man Al-Qadi, and Rashad Rushdi. Having graduated with a degree in Arabic from Faculty of Art, University of Cairo in 1970, Khudairi worked as a school teacher for nine years. An M.A. degree in 1978 followed by a spell of teaching in South Korea as well as lecturing and working as an interpreter for the Korean Broadcasting System in Seoul. In 1981 Khudairi left for the USA where he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This was followed by three years in Malaysia. On his return to Egypt, he completed his PhD. Dissertation on Al- Mutanabbi, generally recognized as the greatest classical Arab poet of the 10th century. In 1990 Khudairi joined the University of Brunei Daussalam. In 2007 he was appointed the first Dean of the Faculty of Arabic language and Islamic Civilization, Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University where he currently teaches comparative literature, research methods, and theory of translation. Khudairi is a very productive and imaginative writer who wrote 60 books, 52 fairy tales, 25 literary translations, 100 essays, and many other writings. He writes primarily in Arabic and English, frequently translating his works into both languages himself. In May 1990, Khudairi founded and edited Majalat Al Dirasat Al ‘Arabiyyah (Journal of Arabic Studies) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and later in the same year he edited Al Majalah Al Dawliyyah Lil Drasat Al ‘Arabiyyah (The International Journal of Arabic Studies) in Bander Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. His Arabic poetry collections include Qasaid Hub 1983 [Love Poems] , the first Arabic poetry book to publish in Malaysia, Attair Al Jawwal,1984 [The Wandering Bird] , Ahlam Rabi‘iyyah,1991 [Springtime Dreams], the first Arabic poetry volume to publish in Brunei, Ahlam Attair Al-Jawwal,1994[Dreams of the Wandering Bird], Al Tajwal Fil Mawani Al Ba’idah,1996 [Wandering in the Far Away Harbors], Awraq Al Shajar,1999[Trees Leaves], Filamanku, 2004 [Flamenco], Ahlam Saghirah, 2009 [Small Dreams], and Layali Gharnatah, 2013 [Granada Nights]. Some of his English poetry volumes are: Trees Leaves (1998), The Abode of Peace (2008), Rubaiyat of Arif Khudairi (2004), Love Poems of Arif Khudairi (2011), and Divine Lake (2016). His poetry moves from alienation and longing, as in Dreams of the Wandering Bird, to the celebration of love and nature, as in Love Poems of Arif Khudairi (2011), to universal themes of love and divinity, as in Trees Leaves (1998), to peace and universal harmony, as in The Abode of Peace (2008), to Sufism and spirituality, as in Divine Lake (2016).His verse is noted for its astounding musicality, exquisite primal images, distinct style, depth, simplicity and wit. His novella The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad (1999)is seen by critics as a highly symbolic narrative of good versus evil, altruism versus selfishness, of materialism versus spirituality. Among his stories collections are Tales of the Prophets (1993), Tales from the Arabian Sahara: The Trip and Other Stories (1998), and Arabian Fairy Tales: The Goblin Wife and Other Stories (2011). In his Arabic tales collections, he rewrote stories that have been either ignored or neglected by the westerners in order to present a true account of the Arabs. His fairy tales hailed as a splendid addition to the Eastern oral tradition, and a superb transcription of the little-known Arabic folk tales. As for his short stories, they deal with various themes. Luxor: The City of Hundred Gates (1982) is a semi-autobiographical story. The Philosopher (1983) is a story of Mat, a poor old man who reflects profound philosophical views about life. Departure (1984) is about unrequited love. Homecoming (1993), examines psychological observations recorded by an Arab immigrant returning to his native land. Night Flight (2000) is a hilarious story taking place in a small hospital. The Lazy (2001), presents a frank and straightforward monologue of a middle- aged man. Born a Lover (2002), recounts astonishing confessions of a modern time Don Juan. Khudairi wrote an autobiography Rihlati Ma‘a Al Shi‘r, 2014 (My Journey with Poetry) in which he highlights the rise and development of his poetic craft. Khudairi is also an excellent translator. He translated into Arabic eight Korean, Malaysian, Bruneian, Pakistani, English, and American books of poems. He wrote biographies of several poets such as Kim So Wol (1984), Muhammad Iqbal (2004), and Shukri Zain (2006). His travels, lectures, and poetry readings took him around the world. Such extensive travels provide the backdrop and color for much of Khudairi’s writing, which is filled with the themes of alienation, wandering, longing, separation, and flight of time. Khudairi is also a skilled painter, whose cover art and illustrations have sometimes accompanied his poetry. Khudairi has been named Sha’ir Al- Mahjar Al-Asiawi or the poet of the Asian place of emigration (Mahir Shafiq Farid, Tasu‘iy at Naqdia, 2007, p.206) as he has resided in South Korea, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam since 1978. The Yemeni poet Abdul Ghani Al-Maqrami points out that Khudairi has successfully developed his own original type of verse (Qiraa Naqdia in Al-Tajwal Fi Al-Mawani Al-Ba’ida, Al-Gumhuria , San‘a, 20 July, 2010). Khudairi’s works have been well received by Eastern and Western critics. Dozens of academic researches have been conducted on his writings in a number of universities in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam. Numerous critics favorably reviewed his works. Johnathan Grimes, a British critic, notes that Khudairi’s Tales from the Arabian Sahara is “a superb transaction of the little-known Arabic folk tales.” The Malaysian writer Hashim Awang asserts that the Abode of Peace of Arif Khudairi is “very interesting anthology in terms of theme and structure of the poems.”  In his study of Love Poems of Arif Khudairi, 2011, S.R. Siddiqui, a Pakistani scholar, states that “this book of poems will definitely take its place among the works of the great love poets.” The Kenyan poet Khainga O’okwemba observes that “Arif Khudairi excels as a poet of the nocturne. His style is distinct, short lines, simple metaphor, and uncontrived similes. The poems are melodious serenading, with acadence that is exhilarating.” (“Poet of Nocturne with Arab Serenades,” the Star, Nairobi, 20 January, 2012). In his introduction to The Rubaiyat of Arif Khudairi, Mahir Shafiq Farid, an Egyptian critic, says that “Arif Khudairi is a master of his craft and his short poems- incisive, ironic, and witty- are a record of his inmost experience. But they are not out of touch of some major currents of thought of our- and all- times.” (The Rubaiyat of Arif Khudairi, p.15). Arif has participated in several international poetry festivals in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Khudairi is a member of various learned and literary societies such as the Egyptian Writers Association (Cairo, Egypt), the Association of Arabic Language (Isfahan, Iran), Modern Literature association (Cairo, Egypt), the International Haiku Association (Tokyo, Japan), President of Poetry Society (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam). A number of his works has been translated into eighteen languages, including Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Malay, Urdu, Macedonian, Japanese, Creek and Bahasa Indonesia. He received several poetry awards, and in 2011, he was nominated for Griffin Poetry Award, Canada, for his anthology (Love Poems of Arif Khudairi).