A social and literary phenomenon for over sixty years, Colette Khoury is one of the most prominent Arab novelists of the twentieth century. Born into a powerful political family in Damascus in 1937 she was greatly influenced by her father, the Damascus parliamentarian and cabinet minister Suheil al-Khoury, her uncle Habib Kahaleh, publisher of the mass circulation satire magazine Al-Mudhik Al-Mubki, and her grandfather, the legendary Fares al-Khoury, one of the fathers of the Syrian nation who fought the Ottomans and the French, serving as speaker of parliament and prime minister in the 1940s and 1950s.
Colette Khoury studied French literature at Damascus University and at the Jesuit University in Beirut. She spent her teenage years with her grandfather, traveling with him to Egypt to meet President Gamal Abdul Nasser and growing up surrounding paternally by towering figures like President Shukri al-Quwatli, and Prime Ministers Khaled al-Azm and Lutfi al-Haffar. At the tender age of twenty, Khoury published her first collection of poetry in French, Vingt Ans (Twenty Years). Two years later came her classic work, Ayyamun Ma’ahu (Days with Him), which became an overnight bestseller and has since been translated into numerous languages.
During the early 1960s, Khoury wrote for her uncle’s political weekly al-Mudhik al-Mubki and devoted her time to literature and briefly, to teaching at Damascus University. In the early 1980s, Khoury began collecting and publishing her grandfather’s memoirs, penning the classic, Awrak Fares al-Khoury (The Papers of Fares al-Khury). The first volume was published in 1989 and the third was released in early 2016. They became one of the pillars of Syrian history books on the pre-Baath Syria. Her other works are well-read all over the Arab world and are particularly popular in Damascus. They include Al-Marhala al-Murra (The Bitter Period), published in 1969, Wa Marr Sayf (And a Summer Passed), published in 1975, and Ma’ak Ala Hamish Riwayati (With You on the Margins of My Novels), published in 1986. In 1979, Khoury published another classic, Ayyam Ma Al-Ayyam (Days with the Days). Two of Khury’s other classics are Da’wa Ila al-Qunaitra (Invitation to Qunaitra), written after the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, and Dimashq Bayti al-Kabir (Damascus Is My Big Home), published in 1969. One of her novels, Al-Ayyam al-Mudi’a (Bright Days), which recounted the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, became mandatory reading material for eleventh grade students in Syrian high schools. From 1990 to 1995, Khoury served as an independent deputy for Damascus in parliament.