Walid Zribi

Walid Zribi (1978) is a poet, editor, and T.V producer born in the village of Zriba, northwestern Tunisia. During his student years he moved to Tunis, where he pursued a degree in Arabic literature and civilization at the capital’s Faculty of Humanities.

In 2001, the publishing house Al-Ithaf released Lost Times, Zribi’s first poetry collection. Around that time, he began to work as an international news correspondent, and achieved notoriety as an up-and-coming poet after the Tunisian Society for Publishing and Development put out Kamikaze, his second collection, in 2003. Written in a climate of stark censorship and governmental control of public discourse, the authorities didn’t allow Kamikaze to receive an ISBN. It was printed, nonetheless, and university students and independent intellectuals received it as a breath of fresh air.

During the following decade, Zribi took on different positions in the media, ranging from magazines to T.V. networks.

His body of writing—more than thirty titles across different genres—and his efforts to promote modern Arabic literature led him to meet and collaborate with Adonis, Saadi Youssef, and many other prominent figures in the Arab orbit. His skills as a communicator led him to positions at governmental and independent institutions in Tunisia and Libya.

Walid Zribi with Mahmud Darwish, 2008, La Maison de la Poésie Tunisienne

As a young child in the Tunisian countryside, Zribi had to trek long distances to attend school. He describes that daily experience of his homeland’s mountain ranges and valleys as his initiation to poetry. Steeped in the Arabic literary tradition, but sensible to the modernity  heralded by the generation of Adonis and Youssef, Walid Zribi’s poems strike a hard balance between lyricism and hallucination, between the shepherd’s wistful meditation and the T.V. producer’s frantic visual parade.

In the late 2010’s Zribi became notorious at an international level for his work as writer and anchor of Shalom, a hidden-camera T.V. show based in Tunisia. Shalom’s concept was simple: invited to supposedly private meetings, unsuspecting politicians or celebrities would show their true colors. Their spontaneous opinions on sensible topics like the relation with Israel, vaccine hesitancy, and domestic politics shocked the Tunisian public. Several established figures were exposed to ridicule, which in turn put pressure on Zribi’s production company, and the broadcasters that relayed Shalom.

Walid Zribi, Face à Face, 2017

The situation came to a head in the summer of 2018, when the president of the Tunisian political party Wafa appeared on the show. During the episode in question, the politician was filmed in a discussion with actors posing as Israeli representatives, from which he accepted a lucrative deal, in absolute disregard for his stated political leanings. Shortly thereafter, the aggravated politician filed a criminal lawsuit against Zribi and his cameraman for kidnapping. A civil court banned the T.V. show, and Zribi was ostracized from the media. Death threats flooded his phone line soon thereafter.

In October 2022 Walid Zribi was detained by the Tunisian police and put under house arrest. The death threats—once private—turned public. Under mounting pressure to collaborate with the government, Zribi fled his home country, arriving in Finland via Spain in November 2022. He currently resides in a refugee camp in Vantaa, where he is seeking refugee status to avoid what would certainly be a life-threatening deportation.

A sample of Walid Zribi’s newest poetry manuscript is available in English translation here:


They said:

When the invisible hauled you from the mountaintops,

Dragging along your pebble promises,

I was hewn like marble from the cliff.

………………….. …………………..

The invisible is not a school garden.

The invisible is not a café chair.

The invisible is not a mailbox letter.

The invisible is not a war song.

The invisible is not a rose branch.

The invisible is not an extension of the nest.

The invisible is not an excuse for rain.

………….………. …………………..

I said:

Why did thirst haul me along?

Alone and armless, like a water bottle.


In the belly of the whale

No one drowns,

The eyes are not empty.

………… ………. …………………..

Someone sat there,

Taking a lesson in deep biology.


The sun springs rashly from the eyes,

It parts us like the two halves of a curtain.

………… ……….. …………………..

Everything you uttered

Is held against you.

We wait for the window to remove its blouse,

And talk about the knives it rips apart each morning.


The house has no windows,

Not a single air vent.

There are only plain walls,

Mushroom-stained ceilings,

A cloudy indoors sky,

And wet water.

There are old pots and songs,

No screws,

No pictures,

Just a gloomy lighting.

A coughing sound hovers in the air.

A little sobriety taints Mozart’s gesture.

The blind sonata drives us mad.


Many winds blew on the tops of clouds,

Winds lopped off the trees,

An airy forest scattered by the currents,

Aflush with air,

Empty wind that blows above my thirst,

But doesn’t quench it.



This wind shaped us in its hand,

As if made of glass.

The wind that blows among the dead.


The voice is not far away… silence is not near.

The anchorwoman finishes reading the news and exits the camera’s eye.

Harmoniously, the world exists the anchorwoman’s eye.

A modest thing, something shaped like a family wolf, slinks into the next-door field.

A satellite spins in the terrace.

It stands like a white hemisphere over an African child’s head.

The anchorwoman slams her voice on the table. She stammers.

The family wolf slams his voice on the table. He stammers.

She puts on a life vest,

While fish from a dead sea dampen her eloquence

As it lies on a blue cloth.

He puts his chest on his own chest,

While several familiar bitemarks appear on his transparent shirt.

With vigilant calm, she lays the bullet-proof vest on the chair.

With the same accuracy, he places the medical prosthesis on the wooden organ.

Milk flows between his teeth.

The anchorwoman undoes her pants, anxiously.

The anchorwoman, in the posture described, remembers something indeterminate,

That is not necessarily the family wolf.

She wears the lifevest and throws herself on a nearby place she finds.

The wolf finds no reason to throw himself behind the camera.

But, while wiping off a runny liquid between his legs,

He slinks to another nearby place.

The voice is not far away…  silence is not near.

The anchorwoman reads the new again and exits the camera’s eye.

In a way that is not harmonious,

the wolf enters the anchorwoman’s eye:

A child armed with stones and hugs flings his childhood over the wall.

                      A watery tear hangs from the clothesline like a remote schoolchild’s overall.

                      Children with military pencils and zones learned by heart.

A morning hymn that’s late for class.

Mothers extracting rose water in letters

Hollowed-out by fingernails and prayers.

Meanwhile, a weapon falls from the anchorwoman’s ear,

the same gun that hung from the clothesline

while glinting gunshots are heard like earrings.

The family wolf jumps from one cipher to another.

Leaping from one moon to another, he forgot his voice back on the table.

The earrings flew out of their display cases, scratching and smashing the camera’s chest.

And death descends like a colourless and flutterless butterfly.

The voice is not far away…  silence is not near.

The anchorwoman finishes reading the news, and exits the eye of the wolf,

as the world anxiously escapes the camera’s eye.