Amina Saïd was born in Tunis in 1953 to a Tunisian father and a French mother during the struggle for Tunisian independence, which was achieved when she was three years old. She was raised bilingual, schooled both in literary Arabic and in French, with the dialectal Arabic of her country of birth also part of her life and imagination. As a child, she was an omnivorous reader of novels, biographies and history. Her specific engagement with poetry began when a teacher of French at middle school encouraged her to write, though poetry in oral manifestation was already around her in many forms.
At sixteen, Saïd went to Paris with her family, earned her baccalauréat and entered university. The new environment felt foreign to her: not the language, but the landscape, and the absence of sunlight. Saïd studied English literature, a choice that alleviated the difficulty of having to choose between her two native tongues. She taught English for two years at a university in Tunisia, and has translated several novels of the Anglophone Filipino writer Francisco Sionil José, but her literary imagination draws primarily from French and Arabic sources, as well as from the Mediterranean landscape. She has been living in Paris, despite the grey skies, since her mid twenties, earning her living as a journalist, with frequent visits to the country of her birth and many trips to literary festivals worldwide.
Saïd began to publish poetry in her twenties, and was rapidly recognized as a unique new voice. She is presently the author of a dozen collections of poetry, including Les Voyages d’Aden (al-Manar, 2011) and L’Absence l’inachevé (La Différence, 2009), as well as two collections of Tunisian folk tales. Her work has been honoured in France with literary prizes. It has also been the subject of critical studies and has been translated widely, in particular into Spanish and English.
Paysages, nuit friable, Barbare, Vitry-sur-Seine, 1980
Métamorphose de l’île et de la vague, Arcantère, Paris, 1985
Sables funambules, Arcantère/Ecrits des forges, Paris/Trois-Rivières (Québec), 1988
Feu d’oiseaux, Sud n° 84, Marseille, 1989 (Jean Malrieu prize, Marseille, 1989)
Nul Autre Lieu, Ecrits des forges, Trois-Rivières (Québec), 1992
L’Une et l’Autre Nuit, Le Dé bleu, Chaillé-sous-les-Ormeaux, 1993 (prix Charles Vildrac, Paris, 1994)
Marcher sur la Terre, La Différence, Paris, 1994
Gisements de lumière, La Différence, Paris, 1998
De décembre à la mer, La Différence, Paris, 2001
La Douleur des seuils, La Différence, Paris, 2002
L’horizon est toujours étranger (CD), Artalect, Paris, 2003
Au présent du monde, La Différence, Paris, 2006
Tombeau pour sept frères, Al Manar, Neuilly 2008
L’Absence l’inachevé, La Différence, Paris, 2009
Les Saisons d’Aden, Al Manar, Neuilly, 2011
Le Secret (stories), Critérion, Paris, 1994
Demi-Coq et compagnie (fables), L’Harmattan, Paris, 1997
Present Tense of the World: Poems 2000–2009 (French poems with translations by Marilyn Hacker), Black Widow Press, Boston, 2011
Arenas Funambulas (translated by Myriam Montoya), Fundacion Editorial El Perroy y La Rana, Ministerio de la Cultura, Caracas (Venezuela), 2006