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

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