Open main menu

Abbas El-Zein (Arabic: ﻋﺒﺎﺲ اﻟﺰﻳﻦ ; born 1963) is an Australian writer and academic. He is the author of two acclaimed works of fiction – a novel, Tell the Running Water[1][2] and a collection of short stories, The Secret Maker of the World[3][4][5] – as well as an award-winning memoir, Leave to Remain, about growing up in civil-war Lebanon and migrating to Europe and Australia.[6][7] He has published essays and articles on war, displacement and environmental decline. His work has appeared in the New York Times[8] the Guardian[9] the Age,[10] the Sydney Morning Herald,[11] as well as literary magazines Meanjin, Heat and Overland.[12] His work is a manifestation of a growing number of Anglo-Arab and Franco-Arab writers, emerging in the 2000s, especially authors from a Lebanese background writing in English or French, post Lebanese civil war, such as Rabih Alameddine, Nada Awar Jarrar, Wajdi Mouawad and Rawi Hage, in whose work themes of violence, loss, memory and identity are prominent.[7][13][14] He has made numerous media appearances.[15][16][17] As a scholar, he has authored and co-authored a large number of scientific papers on environmental sustainability, tackling issues in hydrology, sea level rise and development.[18] [19] He has lectured at the American University of Beirut and the University of New South Wales. He is professor of environmental engineering at the University of Sydney.[20]

Abbas El-Zein
Abbas el-zein 4.JPG
Native name
ﻋﺒﺎﺲ اﻟﺰﻳﻦ
BornBeirut, Lebanon
OccupationWriter and academic
EducationAmerican University of Beirut (BE), University of Southampton (MSc, PhD), Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (DEA)
Notable awardsNew South Wales Premier Literary Award – Community Relations Commission Award



Abbas El-Zein was born and grew up in Beirut. He was twelve years of age when the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975. He was educated at the bilingual French-Arabic school, Mission Laique Francaise.[21] After graduating with a degree in civil engineering from the American University of Beirut in 1986, he left for the UK where he acquired Master's and PhD degrees in computational mechanics and mathematical modelling from the University of Southampton, and later, a Master's by research degree in environmental science from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. He lived and worked in the UK and France for a number of years before moving to Australia in 1995. He started writing his first novel while living in the UK.[22] In 1993, he participated in a writing workshop/retreat run by Beryl Bainbridge and Bernice Rubens at the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, Wales. Later, he published a number of essays in Meanjin and Heat and completed his first novel in 1998. In 2005, he won an Australia Council for the Arts grant for new work, which led to the writing of his memoir Leave to Remain in 2009.[23]

Awards and honoursEdit

  • Australia Council for the Arts Grant – New Literary Work (2005)[24]
  • New South Wales Premier Literary Award – Community Relations Commission Award (2010)[25]


  • Tell the Running Water, Spectre, Hodder Headline, 2001, 248 pages, ISBN 0733613195[26]
  • Leave to Remain, A Memoir, University of Queensland Press, 2009, 304 pages ISBN 9780702236921[27]
  • The Secret Maker of the World, University of Queensland Press, 2014, 192 pages, ISBN 9780702250071[28]


  1. ^ Felicity Bloch, The Search for Redemption and Resolution: Review of Tell the Running Water, The Saturday Age, 18 August 2001.
  2. ^ Tony Maniati, When Worlds Collide for Tension's Sake, The Weekend Australian, 21 July 2001.
  3. ^ Messer, David (19 April 2014). "A new kind of tradition sharpened by precision". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  4. ^ Cahill, Michael (23 September 2015). "Intimate Perspectives". Sydney Review of Books. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  5. ^ Lindsay, Portia (25 March 2014). "Harsh edges of an unyielding world". The Australian. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  6. ^ Borghini, Jose (11 April 2009). "Leave to Remain: A Memoir". The Australian. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b Saadi Nikro. 2010. Memory in a Paratactic Register: Abbas El-Zein’s Leave to Remain: A Memoir. Southerly, Vol. 70, No. 1.
  8. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (27 July 2006). "The Tribes of War". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  9. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (6 December 2013). "As engineers, we must consider the ethical implications of our work". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  10. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (21 August 2006). "Evoking a past conflagration is not helping". The Age. The Age – Independent. Always. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  11. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (22 July 2015). "Iran deal fails to address rampant Arab militarisation". The Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Morning Herals. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  12. ^ Meanjin. 58. 1999.
  13. ^ p49 of Leila Al Maleh. 2007. Anglophone Arab Literature: An Overview in Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature, edited by Leila Al Maleh, Cross/Cultures, Amsterdam ISBN 9789042027183.
  14. ^ "Mornings with Deborah Cameron and Geordie Williamson, 12 March 2009 (ABC 702)". Archived from the original on 10 August 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  15. ^ On Beirut with Abbas El-Zein and Rabih Alameddine, by Caroline Baum, May 2014 (Booktopia TV).
  16. ^ Books and Arts Daily with Anita Barraud and Michael Cathcart, 1 May 2014 (ABC Radio National).
  17. ^ Mornings with Margaret Throsby, 11 March 2009 (ABC Radio National).. Retrieved 24 July 2015
  18. ^ "Abbas El-Zein – Google Scholars". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  19. ^ El-Zein; Jabbour; Tekce; Zurayk; Nuwayhid; Khawaja; Tell; Al Mooji; De Jong; Yassin; Hogan (2014). Health and ecological sustainability in the Arab world: a matter of survival. 9915. 383. The Lancet. pp. 458–476.
  20. ^ "Associate Professor Abbas El-Zein". The University of Sydney. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  21. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (2009). Leave To Remain: A Memoir. Queensland: The University of Queensland Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7022-3692-1.
  22. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (2009). Leave To Remain: A Memoir. Queensland: The University of Queensland Press. pp. 123–132. ISBN 978-0-7022-3692-1.
  23. ^ "Authors – Abbas El-Zein". The University of Queensland Press. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Abbas El-Zein". Newcastle Writers Festival. Archived from the original on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  25. ^ "About the Awards". NSW Premier's Literary Awards. 2012. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  26. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (2001). Tell the running water. Sydney: The University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0733613197.
  27. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (2009). Leave To Remain: A Memoir. Queensland: The University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-3692-1.
  28. ^ El-Zein, Abbas (2014). The Secret Maker of the World. Queensland: The University of Queensland. ISBN 978-0-7022-5007-1.

External linksEdit