Ghayath Almadhoun

Portrait Ghayath Almadhoun
© Ali Ghandtschi

The poet and filmmaker Ghayath Almadhoun was born in 1979 as the child of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother in refugee camp in Damascus. He studied Arabic literature at Damascus University. In 2008 he emigrated to Sweden and became a Swedish citizen.
The central themes in Almadhoun’s poetry, which has been translated into numerous languages, are war and destruction, death and fight, exile and homesickness. The speaker is a witness to violence and demise and, as the only survivor, lends his voice to the dead. Almadhoun’s first of four volumes of poetry in Arabic was published in 2004. Two of his poetry collections have appeared in Sweden to date, most recently 2014’s »Till Damascus« (tr: To Damascus) in collaboration with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg, with whom he also created a series of poetry films. The volume was listed as one of the best books of 2014 by the daily newspaper »Dagens Nyheter« and was adapted for Swedish radio. With the Dutch poet Anne Vegter, he published the poetry collection »ik hier jij daar« (2017; tr: me here you there). In 2017, a translation of his poems into English was published under the title »Adrenalin«, and in 2018 the volume »Ein Raubtier namens Mittelmeer« made his texts written between 2006 and 2016 available in German for the first time. Against the background of the catastrophic war in Syria, Almadhoun draws a temporal arc from the first chlorine gas deployments of World War I to the poison gas attacks of the Syrian regime. The protagonists of the poems are the victims of the Syrian civil war, the injured, people fleeing and seeking asylum, and those who remain in the war zone. The complex, prosaic poems are nourished by the rich imagery of Arabic poetry as well as the traditions of European poetry. »Cruelty, brutalization, and love are just as universal in Almadhoun’s texts as the language of poetry. They impressively demonstrate that the Palestinian refugee from Syria is much closer to us than many would like to believe« (Deutschlandfunk). In the summer of 2018, the jury of litprom voted »Ein Raubtier namens Mittelmeer« #1 on the »Weltempfänger-Bestenliste«: »His poems are carried by graphic vividness, absurdity, and great stylistic sensitivity.« The »FAZ« wrote about Almadhoun: »He is the great poet of a great catastrophe.«
The visual artist Jenny Holzer used poems by Almadhoun in her projects as projections, such as in the context of »For Aarhus« (2017, European Capital of Culture Aarhus). Almadhoun lives in Stockholm. In 2019 he is a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.