© Khasraw Hamakarim
Bachtyar Ali was born in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1966. He has established himself as an influential novelist since the mid-1990s. His books have become instant bestsellers in both Iraq and Iran. In 2009 Ali received the first HARDI Literature Prize, awarded by the largest cultural festival in the Kurdish part of Iraq. 2014 he was awarded the newly-founded Sherko Bekas Literature Prize and 2017 the prestigious Nelly-Sachs-Prize. Today, Ali is one of the most famous contemporary Kurdish writers. His novel The Last Pomegranate sold already 16,000 copies in Germany. He has been living in Cologne since 1998.
When the flute is pressed into little Jaladat’s hand for the first time, he immediately elicits the sounds of the instrument, and everyone is enchanted. The old Sufi Ishaki Lewzerin takes Jaladat and his friend to the mountains to pass on his secret knowledge.
When the war and the bombing raids begin, the three flautists wander from village to village. Playing in a dance band in a huge, nameless city of brothels, Jaladat has to unlearn all his art of playing the flute, so as not to attract attention. The enigmatic girl Dalia protects him, initiates him in her secrets, and leads him to a path into the depths of his land, beyond our imagination.
The City of the White Musicians (»Shari Mosiqare Spiyekan«) is the monumental novel of a world in which death is ubiquitous and the arts bring unexpected salvation.
In The Last Pomegranate (“Duwahamin Hanary Dwniya”), Muzafari Subhdam tells his story. He is on board a boat that will take him along with other refugees to Europe. As a senior Peshmerga, he once saved the life of a legendary Kurdish revolutionary leader when they were surrounded by troops of the regime. But he ended up captive for 21 years in the middle of the desert. Free again, he embarks on a journey through what has become of his country. A journey through stories, secrets and towards those helping him to find his lost son. A journey that ultimately leads him on that trip which thousands have taken before him: across the Mediterranean to the west.
This novel tells of enchanted castles, of swarms and honey collectors, of children on battlefields, of the white sisters who enthral the bazaar with their songs - and a boy named Glassheart who falls in love with one of them, dreaming of a world where everything is transparent and pure.
The Last Pomegranate has a captivating poetry sharply relevant to our times. It takes the reader to another world, like a fairy tale. Inevitably, the novel seduces the reader.
The book is a drumbeat. You understand immediately why the author has cult status in the Middle East. How could such an author hide for so long from our book market? There's a lot we are going to hear and to read from him.
For twenty years the magician of pictures from Kurdistan lived undetected in Germany. Now Unionsverlag publishes in German his powerful parable.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
A timeless and contemporary story, wrapped in a fairytale atmosphere.
Bachtyar Ali invites us to hope and believe in literature as a form of resilience.
Corriere della sera
A powerful, bleak panorama of a society scarred by history.
Times Literary Supplement
A leading novelist who marks a new era.
Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1980s: Two sisters, full of life and desire for freedom, face two different destinies in a city isolated by war. Parwana rebels, breaking with traditional conventions; Khandan loves and admires her older sister. In a complex social and political setting, where religion wields great influence, Parwana‘s only dream is to leave the country. When she runs away with her lover Feridoun to a remote mountain area called Ashqstan, Khandan is sent with other girls who have sinful relatives to a special religious school. In a skilful blend of fantasy and reality, the author deftly portrays both the world of the runaway lovers and the confines of a strict religious school.
Parwana and Feridoun join a group of runaway lovers, all of them trying to escape from their oppressive families. But they seem to be unable to build a happy community because they have brought too much of the outside world with them. Finally, the religious extremists find and attack Ashqstan. Parwana is killed, and Khandan forced to watch. The evening later comes to be known as Parwana’s Evening („Ewaray Parwana“).
For four more years Khandan lives in a strict Islamic school, where she has to learn how to subdue her soul and her body, so she doesn’t go the same way as her sister. After the first Gulf War, she leaves the school and sees the changes in the world after a destructive war. Her only wish is to find out her sister’s lost story, the story of the courage of somebody who followed her hopes without fearing death. Her journey draws Khandan into a search for a God who does not oppose love, a God who has been missing from her life for so long.
The whole novel is an insightful journey through the soul of Middle Eastern society, its divisions and fatal fallings out; an interpretation of the fanatical and strictly religious side set against the desire to live freely without restrictions from religious and social forces.
Bachtyar Ali belongs to the greatest writers in world literature.
Ali Ashraf Darweshyan
Head of the Iranian Writers Association
Bachtyar Ali is one of the greatest writers of Eastern literature.
Head of the Iraqi Writers Union
I’ve read a lot of novels, many of them beautiful novels, but if I have to choose ten of them, I’d have to include all four of Bakhtyar Ali’s novels. [He had published four novels up to then.]
Well-known Kurdish writer
If in centuries to come someone wants to understand present-day Kurdish society, reading Bakhtyar Ali’s novels would be what they need to do.
Eminent Kurdish critic
Iraqi Kurdistan at the turn of the twenty-first century is a territory ruled by strongmen, revolutionaries, fixers, bureaucrats and the “Barons” who control everything from livestock and land to Kurdish cultural life.
Defying the absolute power wielded by the Barons, a band of friends led by a poet embarks on an odyssey to find the bodies of two lovers killed unjustly by the authorities. The Barons respond by attempting to crush these would-be avengers, though their real war is waged against the imagination itself – a prized, elusive commodity for which intellectuals, merchants, political elites and humble workers all search in one way or another.
I Stared at the Night of the City („Ghazalnus and the Gardens of Imagination“) is a trip, in more ways than one: a tale of extraordinary people traveling great distances, in their minds or with their feet. It is a lyrical interpretation of contemporary Kurdistan, so much in the news nowadays but otherwise so little understood. Told by several unreliable narrators in a kaleidoscope of fragments that all eventually cohere, the novel manages the neat trick of dipping readers into a fantasia just long enough before wrenching them back to hard, cold ‘real life’.
The Death of the Second Only Child
(“Margi Taqanayi Dwham”)
Sulaymania: Ranja 1997, 4th ed. 2015, 163 p.
Iran: Afraz 2015 • Kurdish: Rahand 1997
English translation available
Sulaymania: Ranj 1998, 2006; Andesha 2009, 6th ed. 2015, 294 p.
Turkey: Avesta 2012, 2015
The Last Pomegranate
(“Duwahamin Hanary Dwniya”)
English sample translation available
18,000 copies sold in German language
Selected for Books at Berlinale 2017
Number 1 on the Bestenliste Weltempfänger Autumn 2016 by Litprom
Sulaymania: Ranj 2002, 2006; Andesha 2008, 7th ed. 2016, 304 p.
France: Métailié • German: Unionsverlag 2016 • Iran: Afraz 2010, 7th Ed. 2015; Thalith 2014, 2015; Panjare 2016 • Italy: Chiarelettere/Mauri Spagnol 2018 • Kuwait: Alsurra (Arabic) • Ukraine: ILO 3 (excerpt) • USA: Archipelago
The City of the White Musicians
(“Shari Mosiqare Spiyekan”)
Selected as best book of the year 2015 by the Ministry of Education of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan
Sulaymania: Ranj 2005, 2007; Andesha 2010, 5th ed. 2015, 594 p.
German: Unionsverlag 2017 • Iran: Mrwared 2012; Afraz 2012; Dat 2016 • Ukraine: ILO 3 (excerpt)
I Stared at the Night of the City
(“Ghezelnus u Baxekani Xeyal”)
Sulaymania: Ranj 2007, 2009; Andesha 2010, 5th ed. 2015, 818 p.
UK: Periscope 2016
Mansion of the Sad Birds
(“Kshki Balinde Xemginekan”)
Sulaymania: Andesha 2009, 4th ed. 2015, 309 p.
Iran: Arfaz 2012, 2015 • Turkey: Avesta 2014
My Uncle Jamshid Khan: who has always been taken by the wind
(“Jemşîd xanî mamim: ke hemîşe ba legel xoyda deybird”)
Sulaymania: Andesha 2010, 2016, 151 p.
Iran: Afraz 2015; Temaj 2016 • Turkey: Avesta 2012
The Clouds of Danial
Sulaymania: Andesha 2015, 2016, 572 p.
The Angels' Ship (Trilogy Part 1)
Sulaymania: Andesha 2012, 2014, 1019 p.
The Angels' Ship (Trilogy Part 2)
Sulaymania: Andesha 2013, 652 p.
The Sin and Carnival
(“Gunah u Kerneval”)
Sulaymania: 1992, 235 p.
Bohemian and the Stars
(“Bohimi u Esterekan”)
Sulaymania: Ranj 2000, 142p.
Working in the Forests of Heaven
(“Ishkirdin le Daristanekani Firdewsda”)
Sulaymania: Ranj 2004, 98 p.
Till the Funeral of Flower. Till Angel's Blood. Complete Works. (1983–2004)
(“Ta Matemi gul.. ta Xweni Firishte”)
Sulaymania: Ranj 2006, 2008; Andesha 2013, 2014, 430 p.