The Madman of Freedom Square: Hassan Blasim and Jonathan Wright in conversation with Amir Ahmadi Arian


Location: Live on Zoom

Portraits Of Hassan Blasim Jonathan Wright And Amir Ahmadi Arian

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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 at the University of Cambridge and the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

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Literatures of Annihilation, Exile, and Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is a research collective and lecture series co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and housed at the newly launched Initiative on Race and Resilience, directed by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Africana Studies. The series focuses on the study of literatures that have been shaped by territorial and linguistic politics, colonialism, military domination, and gross human rights violations. We aim to theorize new modes of contemporary literary resistance across national borders, nurture scholars and writers of color, and cultivate intersectional coalition building.

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