Samuel Shimon [Iraq/ United Kingdom]
Samuel Shimon, born in Al-Habbaniyah, Iraq, in 1956, left his native country in 1979, and lived in Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Nicosia, Aden, Cairo und Tunis before settling in Paris in 1985. There he founded Gilgamesh Editions, publishing a prose and poetry series by Arabic authors that would also include his own volume of poetry, »Old Boy« (1987). In 1996 he moved to London, where he has lived since.
Shimon’s autobiographical debut novel »An Iraqi in Paris« (2005), a best-seller in the Arab world, was nominated in its English translation for the 2006 Lettre Ulysses Award and the 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The book also appeared in Swedish and French and excerpts were also presented at the ilb in 2009. It is the tale of a young Iraqi writer who dreams of becoming a Hollywood director, but lands instead on the streets of Paris as a refugee, forced to spend his nights in a metro station. Although he is never able to make a film about his deaf-mute father, a series of unusual encounters with Jean-Luc Godard, Samuel Beckett and a ghost from the Père Lachaise Cemetery transform his life into a gripping drama that even surpasses the dimensions of great cinema. The plot of Shimon’s novel »Sankhiro’s Adventures« (2013) is set in the late 20th century at the time of the Lebanese civil war; the main protagonist is a young Assyrian Iraqi who becomes a witness to the Palestinian revolution in Beirut.
Together with Margaret Obank, Shimon founded the independent magazine »Banipal« in 1998, with the goal of advancing contemporary Arabic literature through its translation into English. With three issues annually, each dedicated to a specific subject, the magazine has published numerous works and interviews with Arab authors, thus making their work accessible to a Western public for the first time. »Banipal« is also one of the sponsors of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. »Banipal has enabled the English reader not only to read the works of Arab writers, but also to discover the real craft of modern Arab literature«, pointed out the Iraqi author Fadhil al-Azzawi. In addition, Shimon started the literary website »Kikah« in 2003 and »Kikah Magazine for International Literature in Arabic Translation« in 2013. He was the jury chairman of the Arab Booker Prize and editor of the 2010 anthology »Beirut39. New Writing from the Arab World«, with texts by 39~Arab writers who participated at the Hay Festival in Wales.