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Sinan Antoon سنان انطون


Muzaffar al-Nawwab: Disavowal

[Muzaffar al-Nawwab. Photograph by Jamal Jum`a]

[Today marks the 78th anniversary of the founding of The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Its recent history, especially after the 2003 invasion and occupation, notwithstanding, the ICP has a remarkable history of struggling for justice and freedom beginning in the early decades of the 20th century. It was one of the most powerful and popular communist parties in the region. Thousands of its members gave their lives fighting against tyranny, especially under the first and second ...

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A Barbarian in Rome

[Academy of Fine Arts, Baghdad, 2003. Image from InCounter Productions]

[The following are excerpts from a longer text in the form of a diary kept during the war] “ I have freed millions from barbarism.” George W. Bush, The Guardian, Sunday, June 15, 2008. i. “Are you going home for the holidays?” asked a colleague of mine some years ago in the elevator. It is a typical and legitimate question, but if you happen to be from Baghdad, as I am, formulating an answer is not a simple task. The immediate one that came to mind was: have you watched ...

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Sargon Boulus: The Dream of Houses

[Sargon Boulus. Image by Samuel Shimon]

  [“Hulm al-Buyut” was published in Sargon Boulus’ posthumous collection “`Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila” (Another Bone for the Tribe’s Dog) (Baghdad and Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2008)]   The Dream of Houses   There is a street somewhere lined with houses Washed by the whiteness of memory one ceiling after another I move about inside them Storming like a night Fashioning stairs out of my words Voices too faint to be heard by ...

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Plundering the Past: Scholarly Treasures

[Art by Mohammad Alshammarey. Image from artist]

“Not a year has passed without hunger in Iraq,” wrote the great Iraqi poet al-Sayyab (1926–1964) more than half a century ago in his memorable poem “Rainsong.” Now, many years and many wars later, there is hunger aplenty. Were he alive today, al-Sayyab would have expressed nothing short of horror at the massive hunger in the “new” Iraq, especially when considering the obscene wealth that has been and is still being plundered and squandered by its rulers. One in six Iraqis ...

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إطـــلال الـمـشــتـاق عـلـى أطـــلال الـعــــراق

[دبابات في أحد شوارع بغداد 2003. من أرشيف فيلم

  [كتب هذا النص بعد عودة الكاتب إلى بغداد في صيف ٢٠٠٣ لتصوير فلم وثائقي بعنوان "حول بغداد" About Baghdad. ونشر في ملحق النهار الثقافي. تعيد جدليّة نشره هنا بمناسبة إنسحاب القوات الأمريكيّة الرسمي من العراق] بغداد... كانت الشمس تتثاءب متعبة، كأنها تتردد في مد أشعتها لتوقظ العراق، خوفا مما سيأتي، أو يأساً من كوابيس اللية الماضية! البوابة الحدودية بين العراق والأردن في طريبيل ما زالت تحمل أثار الكابوس الطويل الذي أنهاه كابوس جديد اسمه الاحتلال: جدارية القائد ...

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Four Poems by Hussein Habasch

[Hussein Habasch. Image from]

[Hussein Habasch (b. 1970) is a Kurdish poet from Syria. He writes in Kurdish and Arabic. He has published four collections of poetry. He lives in Germany]     Four Poems   Hussein Habasch     In Praise of my Father   My father, his trousers flowing His shirt adorned with the scent of earth His forehead wide as a field of wheat

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Sargon Boulus: News About No One

[Sargon Boulus (1944-2007). Image by Samuel Shimon]

["Akhbar `an la ahad" was published in Sargon Boulus' posthumous collection "`Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila" (Another Bone for the Tribe's Dog) (Baghdad and Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2008)   News About No One Sargon Boulus   Those about whom we hear no news Those who are remembered by none: What wind has swept their traces as if they never were? My father and the others Where are they? Where? * What became of the man who made beds and ...

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"Tattoo" by Muhammad Al-Maghut

[Art by Sabhan Adam (Syria). Image from]

[Muhammad Al-Maghut (1934-2006), was a Syrian poet, playwright, and journalist. He is one of the pioneers of the Arabic prose poem.]   Tattoo Muhammad Al-Maghut   Now At the third hour of the twentieth century Where nothing separates the corpses from pedestrians’ shoes except asphalt I will lie down in the middle of the street like a bedouin sheikh and will not get up until all the prison bars and suspects’ files of the world are gathered and placed ...

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"This Script is my Script" by Ahmad Fu'ad Nigm

[Ahmad Fu'ad Nigm. Image from Unknown Archive]

[This poem, by the legendary Egyptian vernacular poet, Ahmad Fu’ad Nigm (1929-), was put to music and sung by his comrade al-Shaykh Imam (1918-1995). It is one of the many memorable songs the duo produced decades ago. They are circulating widely these day as they speak of and to revolts, past and present. You can listen to Imam singing the poem here.]   This Script is my Script   Ahmad Fu'ad Nigm   This script is my script These words are mine O my ...

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Remembering Sargon Boulus (1944-2007)

[Sargon Boulus. Image by Samuel Shimon]

[Sargon Boulus died on October 22, 2007 in a hospital in Berlin] "What words can do / these days / Is almost nothing" wrote the Iraqi poet Sargon Boulus in “The Secret of Words,” published just weeks after he died in a Berlin hospital on October 22, 2007. Boulus always modestly undersold the power his work had in Iraqi and Arab cultural circles. One wishes he could have seen the elegies and testimonials that quickly flowed in from Iraq, from Morocco, from across ...

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Sargon Boulus: The Child of War

[Sargon Boulus (1944-2007). Image by Samuel Shimon]

[''Tiflat al-Harb'' appeared in Sargon Boulus' posthumous collection `Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila (Baghdad and Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2008) The Child of War (To an Iraqi child who was born, and died, during the war)   The child came The one missing in the war She stood at the end of the hallway Holding a candle I see her whenever I wake up at the first hour of dawn She waits for me to hit the wall of reality   Her eyes, vast because of the of horror ...

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خارطة بغداد عام ١٩٤١

 نهض في السادسة والنصف كعادته منذ سنين طويلة، بلا منبّه، منذ أصبحت مثانته أفضل مُنَبّه طبيعي يجبره على الاستيقاظ وزيارة الحمام أكثر من مرة. وقف أمام المرآة في الحمّام الذي يحاذي غرفته. غسّل وجهه وحلق ذقنه. أخرج طقم أسنانه من القدح المليء بالماء وأعاده إلى فمّه وثبّته فيه. أعاد نظاراته إلى وجهه. وفي طريقه من الحمام نحو المطبخ كي يعدّ الشاي، وقف أمام التقويم المعلق على جدار الممر كما كان يفعل كل صباح. وهي عادة قديمة لم يقلع عنها حتى بعد أن تقاعد وخلت أيامه من المواعيد ...

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Mahmoud Darwish: A Traveller

[Mahmoud Darwish. Image from Unknown Archive]

A Traveler Mahmoud Darwish (March 13, 1941- August 9, 2008)    This road takes me; a horse guiding a horseman A traveler like me cannot look back I have walked far enough to know where autumn begins There, behind the river, the last pomegranates ripen in an additional summer and a beauty mark grows in the seed of the apple The road and I will sleep like partners behind the river, beneath our shadows Then rise at dawn and carry each other I will ...

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شمس جديدة

 [ لوحة للفنان أحمد السوداني ]

السيناريو (إلى بشار وفصيلته) في البداية، تقلّد التماثيل الطاغية، فتقف في كل مكان. تنظر إلى الناس. تراقبهم. وتتوهّم بأنها ستظل إلى أبد الآبدين. تتناسل الصور وتنتشر كالبثور على وجه البلاد. يطول الكابوس عقوداً، ثم يجيء اليوم. يقف الشعب ويجبر التماثيل على أن تطأطي رؤوسها، واحداً بعد الآخر وتركع، احتراماً له. تنصاع التماثيل. تُمَزَّقُ الصور. وتظل أنت وحيداً مع مهرّجيك وسفّاحيك. فاسفك ما شئت من دم لتؤجّل النهاية، لكنها لن تتغيّر أبداً. إليك المشهد الأخير: ستقلد ...

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The Arab Spring and Adunis's Autumn

[Adunis. Image from Unknown Archive]

The Syrian poet Adunis (1930-) (Ali Ahmad Sa`id) is and will always be one of the most important Arab poets of the 20th century. His poetry represents a genuinely radical break with what came before. His metaphors are dazzling and his voice is pristine. Although he was not the first, nor only poet to write what came to be known as qasidat al-nathr (the prose poem), his name became synonymous with it and his style was emulated by later generations of Arab poets. He has an ...

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On Resonance/Dissonance: An Interview with Khyam Allami

[Khyam Allami in Concert. Image by Hydar Dewachi]

Khyam Allami, a London-based Iraqi musician, has just released his debut work, Resonance/Dissonance (available through Eka3 in the Middle East and Nawa Recordings everywhere else.) This interview was conducted by e-mail. You can see him live in concert on: Thu 7 July– Home for Cooperation (H4C), Nicosia, Cyprus Sat 9 July – Théâtre de Beyrouth, Beirut, Lebanon Mon 11 July – Al Balad Theatre, Amman, Jordan Sat 16 July – Rich Mix, London, United Kingdom

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We Want to Fill Cells; The Strong Heroes of Moscow Rap Against the Syrian Regime


[This clip was posted today on the "Fann al-Thawra al-Suriyya" (The Art of the Syrian Revolution) page on Facebook. The name chosen by its producer/s, "The Strong Heroes of Moscow," as well as the lyrics, parody the Syrian regime's propaganda and the discourse of its backers. We are reposting a version with English subtitles]

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Five Poems by Wadi Saadeh

[Art by Ali Talib. Image from Unknown Archive]

  [These poems, translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon, are from Wadi Saadeh's forthcoming collection "Man Akhadha al-Nazra Allati Taraktuha Waraa al-Bab" (Who Took the Gaze I Left Behind the Door).   Lower Your Voice   Lower your voice please! I want to hear what silence is saying Perhaps it is saying: come! And I want to follow it    Signs    Many signs on the roads Signs pointing to cities Signs pointing to ...

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1000 American Luminaries Support the Arab Spring

[Image from Unknown Archive]

Moved by the immense courage of Arab men and women who have toppled vicious dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and those who are still at it in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, some of the brightest stars of American culture and arts have initiated a campaign to show their solidarity with Arabs and to call on the US government to stop supporting dictators. The campaign began in January at the height of the Egyptian revolt. It initially boasted some major household names. One of the ...

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"To the Master of the Banquet" by Sargon Boulus

[Painting by Bader Mahasneh (b. Jordan, 1977). Image from]

"Ila Sayyid al-Walima" appeared in Sargon Boulus' posthumous collection `Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila (Another Bone for the Tribe's Dog) (Baghdad and Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2008)   To the Master of the Banquet If you are a master give us some bread a drop of medicine for the sick! You, who call yourself a master, give to those who walked in all these funeral processions bewildered in the dream of disaster for whom a cloud passing through the sky of ...

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Sinan Antoon سنان انطون


Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist and translator. His poems and essays (in Arabic) have appeared in as-Safir, al-Adab, al-Akhbar, al-Hayat, Majallat al-Dirasat al-FilastiniyyaMasharef and (in English) in The Nation, Middle East Report, Al-Ahram Weekly, Banipal, Journal of Palestine Studies, The Massachusetts ReviewWorld Literature Today, Ploughshares, Washington Square Journal, and the New York Times.

He has published two collections of poetry; Mawshur Muballal bil-Hurub (Cairo, 2003) and Laylun Wahidun fi Kull al-Mudun (One Night in All Cities) (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2010). His novels include I`jaam (2003), which has been translated into English as I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (City Lights, 2006) as well as Norwegian, German, Portuguese, and Italian, Wahdaha Shajarat al-Rumman (The Pomegranate Alone) (Beirut: al-Mu'assassa al-`Arabiyya, 2010 and al-Jamal, 2013) was translated by the author and published by Yale University Press in 2013 as The Corpse Washer and was longlisted for the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction. It won the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Literary Translation. His third novel, Ya Maryam (Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2012) was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (The Arabic Booker) and was translated to Spanish by Maria Luz Comendador and published by Turner Libros in May 2014 under the title Fragments de Bagdad. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s last prose book In the Presence of Absence, was published by Archipelago Books in 2011 and won the 2012 National Translation Award given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). His co-translation (with Peter Money) of a selection of Saadi Youssef's late poetry was published by Graywolf in November 2012.

His academic works include articles on Mahmoud Darwish and Sargon Boulus and a book based on his doctoral dissertation; The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf (PalgraveMacmillan, 2013).

Sinan is a member of the Editorial Review Board of the Arab Studies JournalHe is an associate professor at the Gallatin School, New York University and co-founder of Jadaliyya and co-editor of its culture page. You can follow him on Twitter: @sinanantoon.

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