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The 55 Greatest Works of West Asian Literature

This selection of literature from West Asia is based on the continuing research carried out for The Greatest Literature of All Time list and is additionally informed by the views of local readers, writers, critics and scholars.

It encompasses the greatest works of West Asian authors in all forms, genres, cultures and periods.

The area of West Asia is almost identical to what is sometimes called the Middle East.

Included in this grouping are the countries of Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, as well as their historical predecessors. Note, Egypt is not included here as its literature is found on the African list.

This list focuses on major creative—mainly fictional—works, although some shorter or nonfiction writing of literary significance may also be considered.

Latest update: May 16, 2024

c.2100–2000 BCE
The Descent of Inanna
Anonymous
Sumer, poem
c.2100–1200 BCE
missing graphic
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Babylon, poem
c.2030 BCE
A Love Song of Shu-Suen
Anonymous
Sumer, poem
c.1800 BCE
Enuma Elish
Anonymous
Babylon, poem
c.1200–100
missing graphic
The Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament)
Various authors
Middle East, prose and poetry
c.1000 BCE
Dialogue of Pessimism
Anonymous
Assyria, dialogue
c.48–110 CE
missing graphic
The New Testament
Various authors
Middle East, prose and poetry
c.160
A True Story
Lucian
Syria, novel
c.799
Epistle on the Singing Girls
Al-Jahiz
Iraq, story collection
c.800
The Khamriyyat
Abu Nuwas
Iraq, poem
 
Book of Misers
Al-Jahiz
Iraq, story collection
c.800–1200
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor
Anonymous
Persia, story collection
c.800–1400
One Thousand and One Nights
Anonymous
Persia, story collection
Includes "Tale of the Fisherman and the Jinni", "The Tale of the Three Apples", "The Barber's Tale of Himself", and others
977–1010
The Book of Kings
Abolgasem Ferdowski
Persia, poem
c.1050
Layla and Majnum
Nizami Ganjavi
Persia, poem
c.1100
Assemblies of Hariri
al-Hariri of Basra
Iraq, story collection
 
Rubaiyat
Omar Khayyám
Persia, poetry collection
1177
The Conference of the Birds
Farid od-Din Attar
Persia, poem
1257
The Orchard
Saadi Shirazi
Persia, poetry collection
1258
The Garden
Saadi Shirazi
Persia, poetry collection
1258–1273
Masnavi
Rumi
Persia, poem
c.1335
Tales of a Parrot
Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi
Persia, story collection
c.1350
The Divān of Hafez
Hafez
Persia, poem
1891
The Fleeing Mamluk
Jurji Zaydan
Lebanon, novel
1892
The Captive of the Mahdi Pretender
Jurji Zaydan
Lebanon, novel
1899
Virgin of Quraish
Jurji Zaydan
Lebanon, novel
1931
A Bridal Canopy
Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Israel, novel
1933
In the Heart of the Seas
Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Israel, novel
1937
The Blind Owl
Sadegh Hedayat
Iran, novel
1943
Madonna in a Fur Coat
Sabahattin Ali
Turkey, novel
1961
The Time Regulation Institute
Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar
Turkey, novel
1945
Only Yesterday
Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Israel, novel
1955
Memed, My Hawk
Yaşar Kemal
Turkey, novel
1968
Selected Poetry
Yehuda Amichai
Israel, poetry collection
1968–1994
The Palace of Shattered Vessels
DAvid Shahar
Israel, novel series
1970
Twenty-One Stories
Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Israel, story collection
1977
The Lover
A.B. Yehoshua
Israel, novel
1978
Past Continuous
Yaakov Shabti
Israel, novel
1984
Cities of Salt
Abdul Rahman Munif
Saudi Arabia, novel
1986
See Under: Love
David Grossman
Israel, novel
 
The Poems of Nâzim Hikmet
Nâzim Hikmet
Turkey, poetry collection
Black Box
Amos Oz
Israel, novel
1991
The Book of Intimate Grammar
David Grossman
Israel, novel
1997
I Have Lived a Thousand Years
Livia Bitton-Jackson
Israel, memoir
1998
My Name Is Red
Orhan Pamuk
Turkey, novel
2000–2003
Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
Iran, graphic novels
Includes Persepolis, Persepolis 2
2002
A Tale of Love and Darkness
Amos Oz
Israel, memoir
 
Snow
Orhan Pamuk
Turkey, novel
2003
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Azar Nafisi
Iran, novel
2009
Limassol
Yishai Sarid
Israel, novel
 
The Forty Rules of Love
Elif Shafak
Turkey, novel
2012
The Colonel
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Iran, novel
2014
A Horse Walks Into a Bar
David Grossman
Israel, novel
2015
Pain
Zeruya Shalev
Israel, novel
2018
No Friend But the Mountains
Behrouz Boochani
Iran, memoir

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