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Mirrors of Absence

Mirrors of Absence

By Faraj Bayrakdar John Mikhail Asfour

Mirrors of Absence taps into three under-examined subjects: issues concerning how the poet survives under tyrannical regimes; how the notion of “imprisonment” affects identity; and the concept of freedom that is so essential to every human being. -- John Mikhail Asfour


Guernica Editions (Essential Translations Series)


70 pages |

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In Faraj Bayrakdar’s short verses life struggles against despair; humanity throws itself against the bars of the captor’s cell. It’s through these slim spaces that art must do its trick: slither in and remind us that creativity is a belief in the impossible. John Asfour’s skillful translations of these poems are honed, accurate and spring-loaded with intensity.

Elee Kraljii Gardiner


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About the author

Faraj Bayrakdar is a Syrian writer, author of five books of poetry and one of prose. Imprisoned by the Syrian authorities in 1987, he was only set free 14 years later, thanks to an international campaign that involved human rights and free speech organizations as well as writers and artists. Among his awards: the 1998 Hellman-Hammet grant; the 1999 International PEN Award – American Center West; the 2004 Free Word Award from NOVIB – Netherlands; the 2006 Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award Netherlands; and the 2007 Tucholsky Prize – Sweden. He has lived in Sweden since 2005.

Born in Lebanon, John Mikhail Asfour was the author of five volumes of poetry in English, including Blindfold, which spoke of his experience being blinded by a grenade in his native Lebanon at the age of 13. He was the editor and translator of the landmark anthology, When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, as well as co-author with Alison Burch of selected poems by Muhammad al-Maghut entitled Joy is Not My Profession. Asfour died on November 2, 2014 while his latest translation, Mirrors of Absence, was being edited.