Antoon, Sinan 1967-
Antoon, Sinan 1967-
Writer. Assistant professor at New York University. Maker of documentary film, About Baghdad. Teacher of Arabic and Arab literature, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
Mellon grant for research in the Middle East, 2002.
(Translator, with Munir Akash, Carolyn Forche, and Amira El-Zein) Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2003.
Mawshur mubalalal bil-Hurub (novel), [Cairo, Egypt] 2003, translation published as The Baghdad Blues, Harbor Mountain Press (Brownsville, VT), 2007.
I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (novel), translation by Sinan Antoon and Rebecca C. Johnson, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 2007.
Contributor to anthology Iraqi Poetry Today. Contributor of translations to Mahmud Darwish, The Adam of Two Edens, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2000. Contributor of poetry and prose, in Arabic and English, to periodicals, including Jusoor, al-Yam al-Sabi, al-Safir, Nation, Middle East Report, Uno Mass, and Journal of Palestine Studies. Senior editor, Arab Studies Journal; contributor editor, Banipal; member of editorial committee, Middle East Report. Antoon's work has been translated into Bosnian/Croatian, Portuguese, and Norwegian.
Sinan Antoon was born in Iraq and lived there until the first Gulf War in 1991. At that time, he left Iraq for the United States, where he has lived ever since. Antoon has spoken out fervently against the consequences of the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, saying that while he was not in favor of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, "from the standpoint of most Iraqis, the great majority of Iraqis, things only got worse" after Hussein was forced from power. In an interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now, he explained: "That does not mean that Saddam was better, but under Saddam Hussein there was something called the Iraqi state. I want to emphasize that what the U.S. did is not only overthrow Saddam—that's a byproduct—it destroyed the Iraqi state, which is something that took eighty-five years to build…. What the United States did is destroy an entire state, entire infrastructure, all of the institutions, so … of course, life was better when you had a system that was functioning."
Speaking about his novel I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, Antoon said that in writing it, he hoped to express that "during the [1980s] we inside Iraq felt really lonely, because, you know, it was not an issue to the world. Now, you know, it's a fad. Everyone talks about the poor Iraqis and how they suffered under Saddam. But while the suffering was taking place, the entire so-called civilized world was aiding and abetting Saddam. So that's the impetus for writing this story." The plot of I'jaam concerns the narrator's imprisonment and torture by Saddam Hussein's security forces, who at one point give him paper and tell him simply to write. In an attempt to avoid incriminating himself, the narrator writes, but omits the diacritical marks that are crucial to understanding written Arabic. "It's his attempt to kind of reconstruct his memory and also reminisce about being outside the prison and kind of to keep his sanity inside the prison," said Antoon.
Reviewing I'jaam for Banipal, Judith Kazantzis stated that the narrator "writes out his past life so endearingly and with such verve that we are one with him in his final wishful nightmare…. Antoon's achievement is to tip us into real lives: those of all the real unknown prisoners, from Iraq to Guantanamo and its gulag, and on." Another reviewer, Sara Powell, writing in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, said: "I'jaam's astute social and political commentary make it an important book, as does its moving and disturbing beauty."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2007, Ray Olson, review of I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007, review of I'jaam.
Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Christopher Bussmann, review of I'jaam, p. 54.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December, 2007, Sara Powell, review of I'jaam, p. 72.
Banipal,http://www.banipal.co.uk/ (February 14, 2008), biographical information about Sinan Antoon; Judith Kazantzis, review of I'jaam.
Democracy Now,http://www.democracynow.org/ (July 6, 2007), review of I'jaam.
Levantine Center Web site,http://levantinecenter.org/ (February 14, 2008), biographical information about Sinan Antoon.
Mast Head,http://www.masthead.net.au/ (February 14, 2008), biographical information about Sinan Antoon.
PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (March 5, 2003), Andy Fogle, review of Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems.
Sinan Antoon Home Page,http://www.sinaan.com (February 14, 2008).