Bachtyar Ali

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Bextiyar ʻElî
Born 1960
Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan
Occupation Writer
Literary movement Postmodernism, magic realism, literary fiction
Notable works I Stared at the Night of the City
Notable awards HARDI Literature Prize (2009), Sherko Bekas Literature Prize (2014)

Bachtyar Ali Muhammed (Kurdish: بەختیار عەلی, also transcribed Bextyar Elî, Bakhtiyar Ali, or Bakhtyar Ali), was born in the city of Slemani in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1960. He is a Kurdish novelist and intellectual, a literary critic, essayist, and poet. Ali started out as a poet and essayist, but has established himself as an influential novelist from the mid-1990s.[1] He has published six novels, and several collections of poetry and essays.

Since the mid-1990s, Ali has been living in Germany (Frankfurt, Cologne and most recently Bonn). In his academic essays, he has dealt with various subjects, such as the 1988 Saddam-era Anfal genocide campaign, the relationship between the power and intellectuals and other philosophical issues. He often employs western philosophical concepts to interpret an issue in Kurdish society, modifying or adapting them to his context.

In 2016 his novel Ghezelnus u Baxekani Xeyal ("Ghazalnus and the Gardens of Imagination") was published in English under the title I Stared at the Night of the City . The first Kurdish-language novel to be published in English,[2] it was translated by London-based journalist and translator Kareem Abdulrahman. In the same year, his novel Duwahamin Henari Dunya ("The World's Last Pomegranate") was translated into German by Rawezh Salim and Ute Cantera-Lang under the title Der letzte Granatapfel ("The Last Pomegranate").


Ali finished his pre-university education in Slemani. He attended Shaykh Salam Primary School, Azmar Secondary School and Halkawt Preparatory School. He started studying Geology at the University of Sulaimani, and later Salahaddin University in Arbil (Kurdish, Hawler:هەولێر), the current capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region. Ali speaks Kurdish, Arabic, Persian, German, and has a working knowledge of English.

Writing career[edit]

He wrote his first prominent piece of writing in 1983, a long poem called Nishtiman ("The Homeland"; Kurdish; نیشتمان). His first article, titled La parawezi bedangi da ("In the margin of silence") in the Pashkoy, Iraq newspaper in 1989. He started to publish and hold seminars after the 1991 uprising against the Iraqi government, as the Kurds started to establish a de facto semi-autonomous region in parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and enjoy a degree of freedom of speech. He could not have published most of his work before 1991 because of strict political censorship under Saddam.

Along with several other writers of his generation—most notably Mariwan Wirya Qani, Rebin Hardi and Sherzad Hasan—he started a new intellectual movement in Kurdistan, mainly through holding seminars. The same group in 1991 started publishing a philosophical journal, Azadi ("Freedom"; Kurdish:ئازادی), of which only five issues were published, and then Rahand ("Dimension"; Kurdish:رەهەند).

In 1992, he published his first book, a poetry collection titled Gunah w Karnaval ("Sin and the Carnival"; Kurdish:گوناه و کەڕنەڤال). It contained several long poems, some which were written in the late 1980s. His first novel, Margi Taqanay Dwam ("The death of the second only child"; Kurdish:مەرگی تاقانەی دووەم), the first draft of which was written in the late 1980s, was published in 1997.


His novels can be categorized as magic realism.

  • Margi Taqanay Dwam (The Death of the Second Only Child), 1997
  • Ewaray Parwana (Parwane's Evening), 1998
  • Duwahamin Henari Dunya (The Last Pomegranate of the World), 2002; translated into German by Rawezh Salim and Ute Cantera-Lang under the title Der letzte Granatapfel, 2016
  • Shari Mosiqare Spiyekan (The City of the White Musicians), 2006
  • Ghezelnus u Baxekani Xeyal (Ghazalnus and the Gardens of Imagination), 2008; translated into English by Kareem Abdulrahman under the title of I Stared at the Night of the City, 2016
  • Koshki Balinde Xemginekan (Mansion of the Sad Birds), 2009
  • Jemşîd Xanî Mamim : Ke Hemîşe Ba Legel Xoyda Deybird (My Uncle Jamshid Khan : Whom the Wind Was Always Taking), 2010
  • Keşti Friştekan (The Angels' Ship ), 2012
  • Keşti Friştekan 2 (The Angels' Ship <Part two>), 2013
  • Hewrekani Danial (The Clouds of Danial), 2015
  • Keşti Friştekan 3 (The Angels' Ship <Part three>), 2017


  • Gunah u Kerneval; (The Sin and Carnival)
  • Koy Berhame Shi'riyekan; collection of complete works of poetry (1983–1998)
  • Bohimi u Esterekan ; (Bohemian and the Stars)
  • Ishkirdin le Daristanekani Firdewsda (Working in the Forests of Heaven)
  • Ta Matemi gul.. ta Xweni Firishte (Till the Funeral of Flower.. Till Angel's blood) Complete works. (1983–2004) Essay books
  • Iman u Jangawarani (Faith and its warriors)
  • Walam le rojgari Winbuni Pirsyarda (Answers in the age of absence of questions) "13 reviews with the writer"
  • Khwenari Kushinda
  • Sewi Seyem (Third Apple) 2009

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Bachtyar Ali". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  2. ^ Keating, Joshua (2016-12-30). "The First Kurdish Novel Ever Translated Into English Bridges Politics, Poetry, and Johnny Depp Movies". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  • University of Sulaymaniyah, College of Languages, Department of Kurdish Language. Lectures.
  • Persian Language of this Article.
  • Interviews with the writer