Salim Barakat is of Kurdish origin, born in 1951 in Qamishli, Syria. In 1970 he went to Damascus to study Arabic literature, but after a year he moved to Beirut, where he stayed until 1982, publishing five volumes of poetry, two novels, a diary and two volumes of autobiography. In Cyprus, where he worked as an associate editor of the Palestinian quarterly Al-Karmel, he published a further three volumes of poetry and five novels. By 1999, when he moved to Sweden, he had published his tenth book of poetry and two more novels. Barakat’s early poetry was revolutionary for its time, both in style and theme; it acquired immediate recognition, and has distinguished him in the scene of Arabic poetry. He is also known for innovative prose, which includes elements of magical realism.
Featured Reading Group Title: كهوف هايدراهوداهوس (The Caves of Hydrahodahose)
The Hodahose are a population of centaurs living in a realm of caves, under the rule of a paranoid and capricious tyrant. Each possesses only of half of his dreams, the other half belonging to his life partner. In order to prevent an uprising among his subjects, the tyrant forces them to reveal these dreams—to reveal the very thing most sacred to them. They resist him by inventing dreams that are not their own, and in so doing discover the infinite world of the imagination. Meanwhile, a myth begins to spread within the kingdom of a man named Orsine, a being on two legs who has the gift of possessing his entire dream himself. This myth only strengthens the rebellious spirit of the centaurs and confirms the tyrant’s fears. Through this strange fable, which transports us to a world where man is a distant memory, Salim Barakat brings us to reflect on social ties, individual and collective identity, the power of the imagination, as well as the autonomy of a human being—the only protection against barbarism.
- The Caves of Hydrahodahose features as part of our winter / spring 2015 Arabic reading group. London meeting: 7pm on Wednesday, 10th June; Riverside Terrace Cafe, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX. Get in touch (via firstname.lastname@example.org) if you live in Washington DC, San Francisco or New York, as meetings are planned too.
- An extract of this novel in English translation is available for download here: Caves of Hydrahodahose – And Other Stories Extract -Translated by Sawad Hussain
- An extract also appeared in Banipal: Issue 27, introduced by Issa J. Boullata.
- You can order The Caves of Hydrahodahose in Arabic from Neel Wa Furat here.
- The Caves of Hydrahodahose has been translated into French by Bayan Salman, and is available as Les Grottes de Haydrahodahus (Actes Sud, 2008).
- Banipal Issue 14 included a feature on Salim Barakat, including a profile and interview with him, as well as excerpts of other works of his works in translation.