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Sinan Antoon سنان انطون


Faraj Bayraqdar, Excerpts from "Mirrors of Absence" II

[Art by Sabhan Adam (b. Al-Hasaka, Syria, 1973). Image from Unknown Archive]

This is the second part of selected excerpts from Faraj Bayraqdar's "Mirrors of Absence," written in Saydnaya Prison, Syria, between 1997-2000. The first part was published last week.   Mirrors of Absence  40   It is neither bias nor bragging there is no graveyard in this world or the next bigger than this one: what I call my country   41   What happens when they open the gates? What happens when they shut them? as if a ...

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Faraj Bayraqdar, Excerpts from "Mirrors of Absence"

[Painting by Sabhan Adam (b. Al-Hasaka, Syria, 1972). Image from]

Faraj Ahmad Bayrakdar was born in Homs, Syria, in 1951. He studied Arabic at the University of Damascus. He was arrested by Syrian Military Intelligence in 1987 on suspicion of membership of the Party for Communist Action. He was held incommunicado for almost seven years and was tortured. In 1993 he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Bayrakdar was released in November 2000 following an amnesty without obligation to renounce his political activities. He left to ...

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"The Language of Almonds," A Short Film/Tribute to Hussein Al-Barghout by Salim Abu Jabal

[Hussein Al-Barghouti. Image from Unknown Archive]

Hussein Al-Barghoti (1954-2002) was born in Kobar, near Ramallah, Palestine. He earned a B.A in English literature from Birzeit University in 1983 and a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington in 1992. He taught at Birzeit from 1994 to 1997 and at Al-Quds until 2000. Al-Barghouti was multitalented and wrote poetry, fiction, lyrics, scripts, plays and literary criticism. He published sixteen books and tens of studies and articles. He was one of the ...

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حنين إلى الضوء

[ حلم، للفنان السوري صفوان داحول، مواليد حماه، ١٩٦١. المصدر غير معروف]

 حنين إلى الضوء    سنان أنطون “إلى أحرار سوريا”           ضع أذنك اليمنى أو اليسرى على الأرض وانصت . . . هل تسمع الأقمار وهي تختنق بالتراب؟ الأشجار تشهق تمدّ جذورها لتقبّل جباه الموتى الجدد الأغصان ترتعش وليس لدى الريح ما تقوله الآن الليل في حداد لكن شفاهاً أخرى ستستيقظ غداً لتردّد ذات الكلمات وتقبّل الشمس

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[ لوحة بلا عنوان، أحمد السوداني. المصدر غير معروف]

  مزمور ”إلى شهداء سوريا"   لا يذهب الشهداءُ إلى الجنّة فأبوابها مغلقة منذ قرون والتجّار الذين اشتروا أنهارها ينظرون من الشرفات العالية إلى الطوابير الطويلة وحشود المشرّدين في الخارج

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"The Meaning of My Prayer" by Sargon Boulus


“Ma`na Salati” (The Meaning of my Prayer) appeared in Sargon Boulus’ posthumous collection `Azma Ukhra li-Kalb al-Qabila (Baghdad and Beirut: Dar al-Jamal, 2008). The Meaning of My Prayer Perhaps this is what I prayed for at times This is what I saw in moments of despair my eyes half shut sleepless until dawn That garden (Its leaves, from childhood, still glisten at noon washed by a sun no longer visible) A handful of trees A time not stained by the hand of ...

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عن سورية: لقاء مع ياسين الحاج صالح [On Syria: Interview with Yassin Al Haj Saleh

[Syrians Watching al-Asad's Speech. Image from The Washington Examiner]

  ياسين الحاج صالح كاتب ومعارض سوري، قضى ستة عشر عاماً في السجن أثناء حكم حافظ الأسد. من كتبه سوريا في الظل: نظرات داخل الصندوق الأسود (جدار٢٠٠٩). يجيب هنا على بعض الأسئلة التي طرحتها جدلية عليه حول الأوضاع في سوريا.    سنان أنطون: ما هو تحليلك للوضع الحالي في سوريا؟ تحديداً تعامل النظام مع المظاهرات ومع تبعاتها؟  ياسين الحاج صالح: سورية في أزمة وطنية حادة. لدينا نظام سياسي مغلق ومعدوم المرونة يواجه احتجاجات شعبية سلمية غير مسبوقة، وهو ليس ...

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Two Poems by Rashid Hussein

[1980 Land Day Poster by Abed Abdi. Image from Unknown Archive]

March 30th is Yam al-Ard (Land Day). It marks the general strike and marches organized in Palestinian towns in Israel on that day in 1976 to protest the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of dunams of land for “security and settlement purposes.” Six Palestinians were killed in the confrontations. The day and its events marked a turning point in national mobilization and the relationship between Palestinian citizens and the Israeli state. It became an annual day ...

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Mahmoud Darwish: Standing Before the Ruins of Al-Birweh

[The remains of the cemetery at al-Birweh. Image by Maqbula Nassar, from]

March 13th is Mahmoud Darwish’s birthday. He departed on August 9th, 2008, but he is seventy today and his poems are t/here for us. Jadaliyya celebrates his presence by publishing this translation.   Standing Before the Ruins of Al-Birweh   Like birds, I tread lightly on the earth’s skin so as not to wake the dead I shut the door to my emotions to become my other I don’t feel that I am a stone sighing as it longs for a cloud Thus I tread as if I am a ...

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Iraq Too?

[An Iraqi waving the Iraqi Flag at Tahrir Square. Image from unknown archive]

Many cast doubts that the lung through which Tunisia breathed freedom could give birth to kindred lungs in Arab lands to the east or west. Even after Egypt shook the earth to dethrone its last Pharaoh, doubts were cast again as to the mobility of the phenomenon. Then came Libya, which is on the verge of casting away its dangerously delusional and brutal despot. Tunisia is everywhere. The spirit of the mythical bird, al-Bouazizi, hovers, together with those of other martyrs, ...

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Libya Erupts and Morocco Protests Planned for February 20th

[Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, Image from Unknown Archive]

The revolutionary wind is heading west as well. In addition to clashes in Benghazi, earlier today, one of al-Qadhdhafi’s murals went up in flames in al-Bayda. They chanted “It’s your turn Qadhdhafi, O dictator.”             

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Impromptu: The Cairo Commune

[Egyptian protester hooked to an IV drip, image from unknown archive]

They fought tooth and nail Wednesday night and defended al-Tahrir Square after a long day during which the last Pharao played his last card by unleashing his hired dogs to attack unarmed protesters who shook the earth in Egypt under his throne. When darkness fell, those heroes persevered despite a rain of rocks, Molotov cocktails and sniper bullets. They barricaded themselves and sealed the entrances to al-Tahrir. Their real barricades, however, were their hearts and spirit ...

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Singing for the Revolution

[Nigm and Imam Performing, Image from Unknown Archive]

So was it Wikileaks, Facebook, or Twitter? Perhaps all three contributed to the revolutionary winds in the Arab world? This is one of the questions repeated ad nauseam by a great number of commentators and parroted by many in the United States and elsewhere in the “civilized world.” Others wonder if perhaps it was Obama’s speech in Cairo or even the Bush doctrine (for Fox-infested minds and they are many)? Yes, new technologies and social media definitely played a role and ...

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Impromptu: A Word

[Al-Tahrir Square,Cairo, January, 25th. Image from unknown archive]

We were told, time and again, that “revolution” and “the people” were obsolete terms, irrelevant in a post-revolutionary world, especially in the Arab world. This, after all, was a place where the burden of the past weighed so heavily and the cultural DNA somehow preconditioned those who carried it to feel more at home with tyrants and terror. Too many trees were killed theorizing about the region’s inhospitability to democracy. “Reform” was the most one could hope for. ...

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Divine Failure & A Letter to my Ancestor

[Image from unknown archive]

Divine Failure He always sat in the front row in that divinity school in a faraway galaxy. He listened devoutly to the teacher and wrote every word that came out of his mouth. He was a diligent god who memorized all the secrets and tricks of creation by heart, but he lacked talent. And thus, when he was given all that space after graduation, he took a jab at creating the Sun, just as he’d learned in Genesis. But he created dead stars instead and dumped them into the ...

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The American Granddaughter (A Review)

[Cover of the English version of The American Granddaughter, image from Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation website]

Many Iraqis returned to their country after the American invasion in 2003 as members of the entourage that accompanied the invading army and helped it administer its occupation. Some of them were translators recruited by companies back in the US where they were living either as refugees, residents, or Iraqi-American citizens. Some bought into the “liberation” narrative and believed they were helping the old country get back on its feet. Others were simply in it for the ...

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They Kill Christians (Too)

[Residents carry a coffin at the funeral for Our Lady of Salvation victims. Image from unknown source]

The attack on the Sayyidat al-Najat (Our Lady of Salvation) Church in the al-Karradah district in Baghdad on October 31st was not the first on churches in Iraq in recent years. However, it’s certainly the most lethal in terms of casualties, let alone its deleterious effects on Iraq’s already damaged social space. The Islamic State of Iraq, some of whose members stormed the church and took the congregation hostage and killed some of them before being attacked in turn by ...

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Two Poems by Sargon Boulus

[Sargon Boulus. Image from Samuel Shimon]

Railroad    The glass of the subway windows is foggy. Shapes escape across it, as if from a demon, and are sorted out behind us as “bygones.”   The shrieking of the wheels on the rail. The appearance of the next station, at the bend of a tunnel full of wailing. A few vagabonds on the platform gulping alcohol from bottles hidden in paper bags.   It is the same void rising from night’s end in any city overstuffed with the living and the ...

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Three Poems by Saadi Youssef

[Image from unknown archive]

Fulfillment I used to, I often used to hope as autumn painted forests with gold walnut brown or muted crimson, I so hoped to see Iraq’s face in the morning to loosen water’s braids over me, to satisfy its mermaids with salty tears, to float over Abu l-Khaseeb’s rivulets to ask the trees: Do you, trees, know where my father’s grave is? . . . I often used to hope! Let it be . Let autumn finish its cycle. Iraq’s trees will remain naked. Iraq’s ...

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"The Corpse" by Sargon Boulus

[Sargon Boulus. Image from Samuel Shimon]

They tortured the corpse until dawn broke down and the rooster rose up in protest. They thrust nails in its flesh. They whipped it with electric cables. They dangled it from the ceiling fan.   When the torturers were finally tired and took a break, the corpse moved its little finger, opened its wounded eyes, and muttered something.   Was it asking for water? Did it perhaps ask for bread? Was it cursing them or asking for more?  

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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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