23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Sinan Antoon
© Ali Ghandtschi

Sinan Antoon

Sinan Antoon, poet, novelist and translator, was born in Baghdad in 1967 to an Iraqi father and an American mother. He studied English literature at university in the Iraqi capital. After the 1991 Gulf War he moved to the USA, where he continued his studies at Georgetown and at Harvard, graduating in Arabic literature in 2006 with a dissertation on the poet Ibn al-Hajjaj.

His poems and articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and publications in the Arab world, including »as-Safir«, »an-Nahar« and »Masharef«, as well as in »The Nation«, »al-Ahram Weekly«, »Banipal« and »World Literature Today« both in English and in Arabic. A collection of his poetry was translated from Arabic into English and published in 2007 as »The Baghdad Blues«. His début novel »I’jaam« (2003, English: I’jaam, An Iraqi Rhapsody) has been translated into various languages and was also published in Germany entitled »Irakische Rhapsodie«. It describes the daily life of a young Iraqi student and his efforts to stay alive amid love, fear, permanent surveillance and dreams in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The narrative fluctuates with swift and skilful shifts between different levels of time and reality, between imprisonment and freedom, present, dream, and past, and is characterised by a careful mix of everyday language and refined prose. The wounds of Iraq’s history are at the centre of the documentary film »About Baghdad« (2004), of which Antoon was co-producer and co-director. The film tells the story of Iraqis in an Iraq ›liberated‹ by US troops. It is, in Antoon’s words, »a simple film in which perfectly normal people answered perfectly normal questions« with the aim of showing Western audiences simple, mostly covert everyday life during the war and its aftermath.

Antoon has translated many poems from Arabic into English. He was nominated for the 2004 PEN Award for his co-translation of Mahmud Darwish’s poetry. In 2003 he also was awarded a Mellon Research Scholarship, and in the same year he commenced his work as a lecturer at Dartmouth College, which continued until 2005. He is an editor for »Banipal« and a member of the editing committee of »Middle East Report«. He is currently Assistant Professor at the Gallatin School of New York University and Fellow of  the Hagop Kervorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. In addition, he is a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute For Advanced Study) in Berlin, where he is working on the project »Europe in the Middle East, the Middle East in Europe«.

© international literature festival berlin


Irakische Rhapsodie
Lenos Verlag
Basel, 2009