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Come, Take a Gentle Stab: Selected Poems


ISBN: 9781803091952

Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Seagull Books, 2023
Language: English

Although Salim Barakat is one of the most renowned and respected contemporary writers in Arabic letters, he remains virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. This first collection of his poetry in English, representing every stage of his career, remedies that startling omission. Come, Take a Gentle Stab features selections from his most acclaimed works of poetry, including excerpts from his book-length poems, rendered into an English that captures the exultation of language for which he is famous.

A Kurdish-Syrian man, Barakat chose to write in Arabic, the language of cultural and political hegemony that has marginalized his people. Like Paul Celan, he mastered the language of the oppressor to such an extent that the course of the language itself has been compelled to bend to his will. Barakat pushes Arabic to a point just beyond its linguistic limits, stretching those limits. He resists coherence, but never destroys it, pulling back before the final blow. What results is a figurative abstraction of struggle, as alive as the struggle itself. And always beneath the surface of this roiling water one can glimpse the deep currents of ancient Kurdish culture.

Translated by Huda J. Fakhreddine and Jayson Iwen.

Salim Barakat is a Kurdish-Syrian writer who is considered one of the most innovative poets and novelists writing in the Arabic language. He was brought up in Qamishli in northern Syria and spent most of his youth there. After living in Beirut and Cyprus, he moved to Sweden in 1999, where he still resides. A prolific writer, Barakat has published dozens of novels and collections of poetry, and is distinguished from his contemporaries for the innovative use of style and theme within his writing.

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