Tarek Eltayeb

- Austria -

Tarek Eltayeb was born in 1959 in Cairo as son of Sudanese parents; lives in Vienna since 1984;

participation in International Writing Program / University of Iowa 2008 (for 3 months); lectorship in Creative Writing (BTL) for young Arabic writers / Universität of Iowa City 2009 and 2010; participation in numerous international literaturefestivals (e.g. in Macedonia, France, Italy, GB, NL, USA, Venezuela, Nicaragua, China, VAE, Syria, Egypt, Colombia); readings in Austria and foreign countries.


Tarek Eltayeb wrote several volumes of poetry, novels and shortstories in Arabic;

2018: Wa Atoof cAariyan (naked I‘m circling), novel, published in Cairo; four poetry collections and two novels are available in German translations.

Tarek Eltayeb is a writer whose work is defined by a fine sense of humour as well as his special approach to impressing imagery created by his eye upon the world. Neither his writing nor his biography would fit in any stereotype. He took the stony road and he succeeded in every single segment of his life.


Tarek Eltayeb was born in 1959 as son of Sudanese parents in Cairo. Since 1984 he has been living in Vienna.

After quite a hard start in Austria he studied at Vienna University for Economics. Currently he works as assistant professor at the IMC college in Krems, at Karl-Franzens-University in Graz and at the University of Vienna.


In his early days, when he was a very young kid, he visited a Koran school where he got in touch with the beauty of high Arabic language and fell in love with it.

After finishing school, he studied business management in Cairo and worked as an auditor.

In the following time he spent half a year in northern Iraq.

The lifeline of this period may sound exotically but a lot remains unsaid within the list of facts.

There was the experience of the Six-Day-War. There were times when life took place in the sands of the desert without electric light, without running water. He participated in degree courses that did not really touched the young man‘s heart but at least offered him some narrow chances within the Egypt education system. 

This system prevented Tarek Eltayeb from studying languages and getting a masters degree in business management as Sudanese people had to pay study fees in Egypt since 1981 and his family could not afford that.  

Tarek Eltayeb decided to turn his back on Egypt, left his home and headed for Europe.

Whenever he talks about the days of 1984 in Vienna, he never shows any anger or sentimentality.

One does not have to be enormously imaginative in order to understand how very troublesome those days must have been. Though Austria did not expect students to pay fees in the 1980s, it was not too easy for someone from abroad to come and stay, having only a tourist visa in the suitcase.

Before Tarek Eltayeb got his first foot on the career ladder as a language instructor, interpreter and translator he had to pass through another „career“ - washing dishes in restaurants and selling newspapers in the street. By being sufficiently tough and diligent he succeeded in reaching his goals – and even more than that: He started writing. It is very touching when he states: „I started writing because I felt lonesome.“ A moving sentence, but again without sentimentality. 

Then a charming volte-face happened. Tarek Eltayeb met a young woman, seriously interested in Arabic studies. Meanwhile this linguistically talented lady is not only translating Tarek Eltayeb‘s prose and poetry, she is also his wife.

In 1997 Tarek Eltayeb graduated from the Institute for Economic Philosophy.

The difficult balancing act of combining the worlds of university and literature is not a big deal for the writing professor: „It does not matter what you are educated in – for writing everything might be helpful. Secondly, as an economist I learned to use resources sparingly, also in literature.“

Working in an economic way in terms of poetry creates wonderful and pinpointed images in the verses of Tarek Eltayeb. His complex subjects include memories, various regions of the world and intense observations.

Dealing with his poetry may lead to surprising results: The reader gets the impression of joining the poet in one of his favourite writing-places – the traditional Viennese café. And when reading the poem coffee and water one might see camels trotting through a narrow street – in front of the café. And as another text of Tarek Eltayeb tells: camels never stop at red traffic light. 


In 2007 Tarek Eltayeb was awarded the International Poetry Prize by the International Orient-Occident Academy while he was invited to the International Festival Curtea des Arges / Romania.


Tarek Eltayeb‘s motto is: „As an economist I learned to use ressources sparingly, also in literature.“

This is Tarek Eltayeb‘s poetry in his quiet hastiness: his language is defined by simplicity and clarity as if he pours his words through a filter and then surprises us with pure essence.