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Kareem Abdulrahman: I Stared At the Night of the City

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In conversation with Joshua Keating

The first major contemporary novel translated from Kurdish, by the most pre-eminent living writer from this ever-important Middle Eastern region.

Iraqi Kurdistan at the turn of the twenty-first century is a territory ruled by strongmen, revolutionaries, fixers, bureaucrats, and the "Barons" who control everything from livestock and land to Kurdish cultural life.

Defying the absolute power wielded by the Barons, a band of friends led by an enigmatic poet embark on an odyssey to find the bodies of two lovers killed unjustly by the authorities. The Barons respond by attempting to crush these would-be avengers—but their real war is waged against the imagination itself, a prized, elusive commodity to which intellectuals, merchants, political elites, and humble workers all seek access in one way or another.  I Stared at the Night of the City is a tale of extraordinary people travelling great distances, in their minds or with their feet. It is a lyrical interpretation of contemporary Kurdistan, so much in the news, but so little understood. 

Kareem Abdulrahman is a translator and Kurdish affairs analyst. He obtained his MA in Journalism from the University of Westminster in 2005. He worked for the BBC from 2006 to 2014 as a Kurdish media and political analyst where translation was part of his job. In 2013, he was awarded a place on the British Centre for Literary Translation’s prestigious mentorship programme. He is currently translating Bakhtiyar Ali's The Last Pomegranate for New York-based Archipelago Books. He is also the managing editor at Insight, a political analysis service focusing on Iraq and Kurdish affairs. He lives in London.

Joshua Keating is  a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.

Bakhtiyar Ali was born in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, in 1960, and currently resides in Bonn, Germany. He is a novelist as well as a literary critic, essayist, and poet, and is widely considered one of the most prominent Kurdish writers by readers in Kurdistan as well as in the Kurdish diaspora. He has published six novels, several poetry collections, and a book of essays.

This event is presented in partnership with the Cheuse International Writers Center

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