Prof. Dr. Fuad Rifka
Syrian Arab Republic (Syria)
Philosopher, lyricist, translator
DAAD Scholarship 1962–1963
A chance encounter awoke Fuad Rifka's passion for German literature and philosophy. In the early 1960s, the young poet came across a volume of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke during a visit to the Goethe-Institut in Beirut. This discovery led to a fruitful and lasting relationship: It awoke in Fuad Rifka the wish to "translate German lyric poetry into Arabic so as to make it accessible to the whole Arabian world". He was the first to translate Rilke's poetry from German into Arabic, and he also translated works by Hölderlin, Novalis, Hesse, Celan, Brecht and Goethe. He received several prizes for this, such as the Friedrich-Gundolf-Prize of the German Academy of Language and Poetry in 2001 and the Goethe-Institut's Goethe Medal in 2010.
As a young poet I stood in the dark, but my encounter with German culture enabled me to begin to find my way.
Fuad Rifka was born in Syria in 1930. He came to Germany for the first time in 1962 thanks to a scholarship from the DAAD. At the University of Tübingen, he continued his studies in philosophy and gained his doctorate there three years later on the Aesthetics of Martin Heidegger. Further DAAD-funded stays in Germany followed. Later, Rifka once described the encounter with German poetry as an "earthquake for his existence". As a professor of philosophy, Fuad Rifka taught at the Lebanese American University in Beirut for more than 30 years and placed German philosophy at the centre of his teaching there.
In the early 1950s, Fuad Rifka was one of the founding members of the avant-guard poetry magazine Shi’r. His own poetry, with its deliberately chosen, straightforward language, is seen as an exceptional phenomenon in the world of Arabic lyric poetry. His first volume of poetry appeared in 1961. In Germany, his poetry was first published as a bilingual edition in 1990. “As a young poet, I stood in the dark,” said Fuad Rifka, “but my encounter with German culture enabled me to begin to find my way. Like someone who is blind but gradually begins to see.”
Fuad Rifka died on 14 May 2011.