Minority Languages Translated Book Pick: I Stared at the Night of the City by Bakhtiyar Ali (Kurdish)

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 an enigmatic poet embark 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—but their real war is waged against the imagination itself, a prized, elusive commodity to which intellectuals, merchants, political elites, and humble workers all seek access in one way or another.

I Stared at the Night of the City is a tale of extraordinary people travelling great distances, in their minds or with their feet. It is a lyrical interpretation of contemporary Kurdistan, so much in the news, but so little understood. Told by several unreliable narrators in a kaleidoscope of fragments that all eventually cohere, the novel immerses readers in the fantastic just long enough, before wrenching them back to hard, cold “real life.”

Bakhtiyar Ali was born in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, in 1960, and currently resides in Bonn, Germany. He is a novelist as well as a literary critic, essayist, and poet, and is widely considered one of the most prominent Kurdish writers by readers in Kurdistan as well as in the Kurdish diaspora. He has published six novels, several poetry collections, and a book of essays.

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