Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance: The Madman of Freedom Square


Location: Zoom Webinar


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Hassan Blasim (b. 1973) is an Iraqi writer, poet, and filmmaker who is currently living in Helsinki, Finland. Born in Baghdad, he studied at the city’s Academy of Cinematic Arts where two of his screenplays won the Academy’s Festival Prize for Best Work. In 1998 he was advised by his tutors to leave Baghdad, since the political and critical nature of his films was drawing attention from Saddam’s informants at the Academy. After fleeing and travelling through Europe as a refugee, he settled in Finland in 2004. His debut collection of short stories, The Madman of Freedom Square (Comma Press, 2009), was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ (Comma Press, 2013), won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014.  Blasim’s writing has been translated into over 20 languages to date. He has been described by the Guardian as “perhaps the greatest writer of Arab fiction alive”. His debut novel, Allah99, was published in 2020.

Jonathan Wright studied Arabic, Turkish, and Islamic history at St. John’s College, Oxford University. Between 1980 and 2009 he worked for Reuters news agency, mainly in the Middle East. He began literary translation in 2008 and has since translated about a dozen novels, as well as collections of short stories, essays, and poetry. He won the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation twice, for  The Bamboo Stalk  by Kuwaiti writer Saud al-Sanoussi and  Azazeel  by Egyptian writer Youssef Ziedan, as well as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2014 for his translation of  The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim. His latest literary translations include Jokes for the Gunmen, short stories by Mazen Maarouf, and  Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2018.

This conversation will be moderated by Amir Ahmadi Arian, Visiting faculty of City College, New York. 

Amir Ahmadi Arian started his writing career as a journalist in Iran. He has published two novels, a collection of stories, and a book of nonfiction in Persian. He also translated from English to Persian novels by E.L. Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy. Since 2013, he has been writing and publishing exclusively in English. In recent years, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, LRB, and Lithub. He holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Queensland, Australia, and an MFA in creative writing from NYU. He currently teaches literature and creative writing at City College, New York.

This event is co-sponsored by the Archives of the Disappeared Research Seminar, University of Cambridge.

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Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is a research collective and lecture series co-sponsored by the College of Arts & Letters and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. We are proud to announce that we are now housed at Notre Dame University's newly launched Initiative on Race and Resilience, directed by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Africana Studies. Global in scope and comparative and interdisciplinary in critical approach, the Initiative on Race and Resilience is dedicated to challenging systemic racism and promoting racial equality through scholarship, education, and community empowerment.

The Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance research collective includes Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies faculty members Asher KaufmanEbrahim MoosaAtalia Omer, and Ernesto Verdeja and College of Arts and Letters faculty members Alison RicePerin GürelOlivier MorelErnest MorrellFrancisco Robles, and Mark Sanders.  External collaborators include Chana Morgenstern, co-founder of the Archives of the Disappeared Initiative and Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle Eastern Literatures at Cambridge University; Sinan Antoon, Iraqi poet, novelist and translator, and Associate Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University; Refqa Abu-Remaileh, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Film at Freie Universität Berlin and Principle Investigator of PalREAD; and Amir Ahmadi Arian, Iranian novelist, journalist, and non-fiction writer.