A Reading & Conversation with Kurdish Writer Bachtyar Ali

Join us for a reading and discussion with Kurdish novelist Bachtyar Ali and his English language translator Kareem Abdulrahman, in conversation with Margaret Litvin, World Languages & Literatures. This event celebrates the recent publication by Archipelago Books of Ali’s The Last Pomegranate Tree – “a phantasmagoric warren of fact, fabrication, and mystical allegory, set in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s rule and Iraq’s Kurdish conflict”in English translation by Abdulrahman.

Bachtyar Ali is one of the most prominent contemporary authors and poets from Iraqi Kurdistan. He has been translated into Kurmanji Kurdish, Persian, Arabic, German, Italian, French, English, and other languages, a renown very few authors writing in the Kurdish language enjoy. In 2017, he was awarded the Nelly Sachs Prize, joining past recipients such as Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood and Javier Marías. He is the first author writing in a non-European language to do so.

Ali was born in 1966 in Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. In 1983, he was injured during student protests against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party, and he abruptly ended his studies in geology. He devoted himself to poetry instead and received that same year his first prize, for his poem “Nishtiman” (“Homeland”). After the revolt of 1991, writers and intellectuals in the Kurdish region of Iraq experienced a surge of creative autonomy. Ali’s novels synthesize literary traditions, drawing from contemporary Kurdish events as well as fantastical elements. He is celebrated for his non-partisanship and open criticism toward the political and social relationships in his homeland.

Kareem Abdulrahman is a translator and Kurdish affairs analyst. From 2006 to 2014, he worked as a Kurdish media and political analyst for the BBC, where translation was part of his job. He translated Bachtyar Ali’s I Stared at the Night of the City into English (UK; Periscope; 2016), making it the first Kurdish novel to be translated into English. He is also the co-managing editor at Insight, a political analysis service focusing on Iraq and Kurdish affairs. He lives in London.

Boston University Arts Initiative, the Department of World Languages & Literatures; the Center on Culture, Religion & World Affairs: CURA; the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship; the Center for the Humanities, and AGNI.

DATE: Monday, October 2, 2023
TIME: 4 to 5:30 PM
LOCATION: Pardee School of Global Studies, 121 Bay State Road


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