Four Narrations and an “Imagined Community” By Hashem Ahmadzadeh - Halim Youssef

Four Narrations and an “Imagined Community” By Hashem Ahmadzadeh

June 25, 2021


The role of the novel in the formation and development of national identity has been widely acknowledged by the literary scholars and other theoreticians in the field of humanities and social sciences. While the formation of the nation-states has influenced the direction of the novel as a literary genre, that crosses the national boundaries, the novel, in the case of the stateless nations is still very much affiliated with the idea of a national identity. The case of the Kurdish novel is an important example for demonstrating the close relationship between the themes of the novel and the struggle of a nation for its democratic rights. The divided feature of the Kurdish societies among the four nation-states, i.e. Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and the fact that the Kurds of each of these countries have been a subject to different nation-state discourses, have resulted in a fragmented Kurdish identity. Despite various political, social, linguistic and dialectal differences among the different parts of Kurdistan there are standing references to the Kurdish novel as a common Kurdish literary genre. Through analysing the themes of the novels written by four prominent Kurdish novelists from each part of Kurdistan this article aims to show how the Kurdish narratives challenge the dominant nation-states’ homogenising policy in imposing one single identity over the ethnically and culturally different inhabitants of their territory.  The article also aims to see how the Kurdish novelistic discourse, despite its different social, political and cultural backgrounds, challenges the hegemony of the nation-states through constructing its own “imagined community”.  


The formation of the new nation-states in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the division of territories in which the Kurds inhabited among the three new established countries, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. A part of Kurdistan, which had been under the domination of the Safavid Empire since the early 16th century, remained as a part of the new Iranian nation-state which was established in the 1920s. Each part of the Kurdish areas was treated as an integral part of these nation-states that have been aiming to impose a “national identity” based on a dominant ethnic identity of each country, i.e. Turkish, Arabic, and Persian, at the expense of eliminating any Kurdish identity. The political and social reaction to the policy of assimilation manifested the Kurdish nationalism in these four countries. The political reality of Kurdistan and the different policies of the nation-states towards the Kurdish question have resulted in a fragmented Kurdish policy, which has been far from being a united Kurdish nationalism as far as its political objectives are considered. A determining factor against the policy of denial practiced by the nation-states against the Kurdish identity has been Kurdish cultural nationalism. The Kurdish novel, despite being effected by the political reality of Kurdistan, is a discourse which has been manifesting the formation of Kurdish identity through challenging the dominant nation-states discourses. 

Novelistic discourse as a powerful discourse contributes to the formation of national identity.  Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities … rightly signifies the importance of the novel for the emergence of the nation. Armstrong’s reading of Imagined Communities …, rightly shows its “kernel of the truth”, which “sees the appearance of a national tradition of the novel as the sure sign that a culture is emerging into modern nationhood.”[1]Anderson’s argument concerning the novel and its role as a formal condition in imagining the nation has been a hotly-debated topic among scholars.[2] Anderson argues that the created world of the novel, which presents simultaneous events in “homogeneous empty time”, creates, in its turn, a world “embedded in the minds of the omniscient readers”.[3] Although some literary scholars have criticised Anderson’s ideas about the novel, the importance of the novel and its contribution to “help to encourage, shape, justify, or legitimate the nation” has been generally recognised.[4]

The importance of the novel in shaping and constructing the national character of the nations is widely acknowledged.[5] Huxley clearly refers to this relationship and argues that novelists and poets are “to a very large extent” the inventors of their nations.[6] The importance of literature and its politics and the reciprocal relationship between the novel and the nation have drawn the attention of many literary critics.[7] As an example, the Indian postcolonial situation, with all the complications originating from the colonial and pre-colonial time, finds its most authentic expression in Indian novels. Nation as a political and cultural artefact can hardly stand independent from the novel, which would narrate its distinctive characteristics as set apart from other nations.[8] The fictitious world in which the characters live and act is in fact more than a pure fantasy without any worldly aspect. All novels, in different degrees and with different emphases, are a “complex interfusion of realism and fictiveness”.[9] The novel, far from being a medium solely for entertainment, is something that has its roots and connections with many other aspects of the world – political, social, cultural – all of which go to make up its worldliness”.[10] The novel’s invented world, with all its probable similarities and differences from our surrounding world, stands as an independent world. This invented world can serve as an example for the readers who can compare their own world with it. However, the novel’s role is more than only offering an example of the world. It also, through its influence on the reader, shapes his/her subject and offers him/her “a kind of lens by means of which he will learn to see the world clearly and be able to adapt himself to it”.[11]

This article, following a close reading of four prominent Kurdish novelists’ works, each fromdifferent parts of Kurdistan, i.e. Iranian, Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian, argues that the discussed Kurdish novels do not follow the established geographical borders of the established nation-states in the Middle East, where the Kurds inhabit, as their setting.[12] The world, space and setting of the discussed Kurdish novels are a direct challenge to the construction of the nation as it has been desired and planned by the relevant nationalist discourses in the four countries where the Kurds live.  While the agenda of the dominant nationalist discourses in these countries has been the construction of a homogenous nation, the Kurdish novelistic discourse has been challenging this agenda through referring to another national category, i.e. Kurdish, crossing the existing official borders. While the aim of the nation-states governing the Kurdish inhabitants has been imposing an “imagined community” with its defined boundaries, the Kurdish novel has been challenging this “imagined community” by constructing its own one, crossing the official borders of the nation-states. Moretti argues that “the nation-state found the novel. And vice-versa: the novel found the nation-state”.[13] While the Kurdish novel is by no means created by a nation-state, one can trace the imagining of the nation-state in the Kurdish novel. This article argues that the Kurdish novel, challenging the imposed national identities by the nation-states, represents the Kurdish nation in particular as a stateless nation.


Two of Uzun’z novels, Tu and MirinaKaleki Rind, are autobiographical works. The reader of these novels can see the traces of Uzun’s own life. The main character of Tu narrates the years of his imprisonment because of his writing of a poem in Kurdish. In fact, Uzun himself was imprisoned in 1977 due to the same reason. In these two novels the narrators share their stories about exile, looking for their identities, homes and the hard conditions that they have been facing.In RojekjiRojenEvdaleZeyniki a troubadour narrates one day of the story of a legendary Kurdish troubadour’s life,EvdaleZeyniki. It is commonly believed that he lived in the 19th century. The narrator of the story is patronized by the famous Kurdish intellectuals, Jaladat and KamuranBadirkhan, who live in exile. Writing down the troubadour’s songsthey intend to show the social transformation of a traditional oral culture to a written one. The narrator, referring to Evdal’s way of life by entertaining the Kurdish Emirs through his songs and ballads, reminds the reader of a traditional society with its oral culture. At the same time one can see the nostalgic aspect of the story in which the troubadour could articulate himself in Kurdish at the time of the Ottoman Empire, while later on in the modern era one was deprived of this right. The multicultural Empire in the words of the narrator has now given its place to an imposed homogenising policy in which there is no space for any non-Turkish culture and language. The themes of the songs and Evdal’s life mainly represent the Kurdish society and the agonies of the Kurds. Evdal’s struggle to reach his beloved woman is generally contextualised in the novel as the story of the Kurds and their struggle for their land. The narrator as a troubadour referring to the modern time and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey complains in a sad tone about the illegalising of speaking in Kurdish. He explicitly refers to the occasions in which those who uttered any Kurdish word were fined.

In SiyaEvine and BiraQadareUzun deals with the life of two influential Kurdish intellectuals and politicians who devoted themselves to the Kurdish question. The life and story of the Kurdish intellectual and politician MemduhSelim is the main subject of SiyaEvine. The epic tone and mystified aspect of the novel highlights MemduhSelim’s struggle for the rights of the Kurds. The story of one of the most influential Kurdish intellectuals in the 20th century, JaladetBadirkhan, from the days of his life in Istanbul up to his death in Damascus is the theme of BiraQadare. These two historical novels clearly discuss the life and work of two Kurdish nationalists whose aim has not been anything except for a free Kurdish nation. Retelling the story of two Kurdish freedom fighters and highlighting their endeavours for constructing a Kurdish national identity gives a resistance feature to these historical novels.

In Roni Mina EvineTari Mina Mirine the question of identity is the most central issue. While the people of the “Mountain Country”, which is clearly an allusion to Kurdistan, struggle to preserve their identity, the army of the “Big Country”, which allegorically refers to Turkey, denies their identity and suppresses any endeavour against the official policy of the state. The idea of ‘welat’ (country) is frequently referred to and the whole story is full of love and national feelings for the country. The people of the Mountain Country have always lived in this old country. Their ancestors have been there for seventy-seven generations and they think that the foreigners should leave their country.[15] One of the main differences between the Big Country and the Mountain Country is their language. One of the suppressive policies of the Big Country is to impose its own language on the people of the Mountain Country. The official policy of the Big Country is based on the denial of the Mountain Country’s identity. This policy suppresses every aspect of any identity which differs from the imposed official one.

Uzun’s longest and last novel HawaraDijlaye is a historical novel that deals with the agony of the Kurds who have been living alongside the Tigris for a long time. The narrator of the novel, again a troubadour, invites his listeners to hear his ballads which tell the story of those who have been forgotten, defeated and oppressed. The troubadour, together with his beloved wife, Ester, follows the last Kurdish Emir of Jizire, Mir Badirkhan and his defeat from the Ottomans in 1948. The story of Mir Badirkhanis narrated by the troubadour, from the time when he is sixteen years olduntil his death, after spending many years in exile. The narrated “glories and regrets” and the “rich legacyof memories” in this novel are significant references, which contribute to the “construction of a national sense”.[16]


In his first novel, Sobarto, Yusiv narrates the story of a country, Sobarto, which through the various mythological and religious allusions, allegorically represents the land of the Kurds. The novel narrates the story of a lost people with a pessimistic and sometimes comic tone. The novel narratesSulaiman’s life, (the main protagonist of the story), from his childhood to his adult years. In each of the six parts of the novel, a period of Sulaiman’s life that corresponds to a period of the struggle of the Kurds for their national rights has been narrated. Sulaiman who is one of the survivals of a cinema that was burned down in a Kurdish city in Syria, Amude, talks about his childhood.[18]Sulaiman, having been effected by this tragic event, aims to burn the whole land of Sobarto. The Kurdish revolutionary movements, e.g. Mustafa Barzani’s movement in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1960s and 1970s, the movement led by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) in the 1980s and 1990s, have their own affect on Sulaiman’s character. Sulaiman’s love to Belqis is also shaped by the political events in Kurdistan in a way that his relation to her goes up and down parallel to the ebbs and flows of politics. The fire in the Amude cinema in the beginning of the novel and the frequently repeated events in which some Kurdish freedom fighters burn themselves as a sign of protest against the occupiers of their land give a tragic aspect to the whole narration. The referred contemporary real events in the novel make the mythical Sobarto a symbol of today’s Kurdistan.

In his Tirsa Be DiranYusivnarrates the story of a country which is completely dominated by a toothless fear. A rootless scare can be seen in every corner of this country. A disease that makes everybody cough is spread out in the city. It is only in March that this disease can be cured. This is a clear metaphor to the importance of March in Kurdish modern history.[19] The magical realist aspect of the novel contributes to highlighting the existing political situation in Kurdistan, where the presence of grass hoppers everywhere in the country can be simply read as the presence of the soldiers who control the daily life of people.  One of the characters of the novel, a philosophical minded man, Kalo, who writes a book about the history of fear, argues that the birthplace of the fear is Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. There are clear real events in the novel and the way that they effect the life of the characters.[20] Ironically one of the main characters of the novel is a history teacher, but due to the fact that he cannot teach Syrian official history, which denies the Kurds, he leaves the country to seek asylum in Germany. After a while he leaves Germany and goes to London. He suffers from hallucinations and in one occasion he attacks an English man convincedit might be Sir Mark Sykes.[21]

In GavaMasi Ti dibin, the main character, Masi (which literally means fish) is thirsty for freedom. In Masi’s country, surrounded by myths, people do not have a language. The narrator, using a magical realist mode, follows Masi’s life across the borders of Kurdistan in search for his love, Bafrin, a girl originally from Northern Kurdistan. Mountains as “a common theme in Kurdish culture”[22] occupy a certain place of the novel. Masi’s search finally leads him to the Mountains of Kurdistan where he becomes a militant and in a military operation he loses both his legs. The imagined greater Kurdistan is a perpetual standing map in Masi’s mind during all his trips outside Kurdistan. Masi in his visit of Diyarbakir, the main Kurdish city in Northern Kurdistan, finds his relatives there. The fact how the division of Kurdistan among different nation-states has resulted in the partitioning (parting???) of the Kurdish people as well as the Kurdish families motivates Masi more than ever. After finding out Bafrin has been arrested, Masi leaves Kurdistan and goes to Europe. The importance of borders and their role in dividing different parts of Kurdistan from each other is referred numerously in the novel. The frequent narrators of the novel and the fact that even the various existing objects of the story, e.g. a dog and a snake, speak, makes the geographical borders of an imagined country, i.e. Kurdistan, a place where the perpetuated tragedies represent the hard conditions of its inhabitants.        

Ata Nahayee[23]

In his first novel, GuliShoran[24], Nahayee narrates the story of the formation and collapse of one of the main achievements of Kurdish nationalism in Iranian Kurdistan, i.e. the establishment of the Republic of Kurdistan in January 1946 in Mahabad and its decline in December the same year. The fact that the life of an individual has become the object of Nahayee’s novel, which covers the events from the early 20th century up to the 1960s, shows that the necessary presuppositions of the emergence of individuality have emerged in Kurdish society. According to Armstrong “[t]o produce an individual, novels had to think as if there already were one, that such an individual was not only the narrating subject and source of writing but also the object of narration and referent of writing.”[25] Following up the formation of Las’ character, the narrator reveals the secrets behind the lost years of his life which is parallel to the rise and development of Kurdish nationalism in Iranian Kurdistan.

Narration contributes to the creation of an identity as it is seen in narrating Las’ story. “In order to be able to answer the question of who-identity, the question ‘who am I?’, one must have recourse not only to strong evaluation but also to narrative.”[26]The world of Las’ memories is full of fragments which have denied his Kurdishness. Hisnightmares about a policeman who had a handlebar moustache and who repeatedly ordered him to speak in Persian show the psychological effects of being denied to speak in your own language.[27]In fact, one of the main institutions to contribute to the creation of a national identity is educational institutions. In Las’ case it is through the imposition of Persian that the Iranian government aims to create a national identity, which is far from taking into consideration the democratic and linguistic rights of the Kurds. The education system and schools, for Bourdieu, are among the means that the state uses to construct “what is commonly designated as national identity”.[28] As a reaction to the policy of the states that govern the Kurds, a main demand in the manifestos of all Kurdish national movements has been linguistic rights which guarantee the right to be educated in Kurdish. As Hobsbawm puts it, “linguistic nationalism was and is essentially about the language of public education and official use.”[29]Iranian state nationalism, aiming to construct a “homogenised nation”, even targeted the Kurdish dress, which was seen to hamper progression toward the creation of a modern Iranian nation. Thus, wearing a uniform was obligatory for everybody. One of the most unpleasant memories that Las has is the day he witnesses a disgusting policeman,Rashi, who punishes a Kurdish tailor by cutting the crotch of his Kurdish trousers in public.[30]

The collapse of the Kurdish Republic is considered as a tragic event in the Kurdish historiography. Gule, Las’ mother, is glad that her husband, Wisu, dies before hearing about the defeat of the Republic.[31] Las’ destiny after the collapse of the Republic and his fifteen years of imprisonment in Iraqi Kurdistan and finally his return to his hometown, where after three days of staying, he commits suicide, makes the idea of “land” or “country” complicated. There are frequent references to “wilat” (country) in Las’ memories. However, here, the idea of land is not clear. What does Las really mean by his ‘wilat’ (land)? Is it the official land, Iran, which is never referred to in the whole story? Is it his city where he is born? The reaction of both Iraqi and Iranian agents towards Las shows that he is considered to be a ‘traitor’ of these lands. The ambiguity in Las’ reference to the idea of “land” is quite reasonable as far as the political reality of Kurdistan is considered.

Nahayee’s second novel, Balndakani Dam Ba, is a parallel narration of two lives and destinies which are very similar and close to each other. Both narrations, re-describing the past times, make the novel a “way of denying the official, politicians’ version of truth.”[32]. The two protagonists of the novel have been active politicians and after having been disappointed they return to art, writing and painting, to re-describe the past, as a “necessary first step towards changing it.”[33]However, “in this country nobody’s story has been written”.[34] Thus, in order to put an end to this tradition, Mehraban starts writing. Mehraban and Farhad represent a generation of Kurds who actively took part in the Iranian Revolution in hope of freedom and equality. A generation that could be identified by its ideological motives and could easily be distinguished by “a Chinese shirt, an American overcoat, a Stalin-like moustache, and a pair of simple and black framed glasses”.[35] Soon after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 they are disappointed. Their destiny reflects the failure of the high ideals of a generation who never succeeded to provide themselves with an identity which could be defined in terms of nationality and belonging. The final stages of their lives show how disappointment, hopelessness and defeat become the main indications of their character.

While in his two first novels Nahayee’s main protagonists come back from exile to die at ‘home’, in his third novel, the protagonist,Halala, leaves ‘home’ to die in exile.                         Like Nahayee’s other novels, the question of Kurdish identity also occupies a central role in the dialogues between the main characters of this novel. The idea of “country” in this novel is also vague. The country has been referred to as “the country of stone” or “the country of rain”.[36]In a hot family debate the central disputed question is “where is our country?”[37]

The aimed national identity by the Iranian central governments is against the desire of being a Kurd. There is a clear contest in what is directed by the governments and what is wished by the Kurds. Like all her compatriots Halala at the time of her childhood and school years has been the subject of an exercise in the identity-making that was far from her Kurdish identity. In the years before the Revolution she used to sing the anthem of “we are the children of this country”,after the Revolution the anthem becomes an Arabic one.[38] In this novel the main protagonists do not feel as if they belong to a specified country. The vague idea of country or homeland causes a crisis of identity in the perception of the characters by themselves. The protagonists of this novel, like Nahayee’s other novels, do not belong anywhere. They do not feel at home either in their “homeland”, or in “exile”.

Bakhtiyar Ali[39]

Through various social, historical, and political references in Bakhtiyar Ali’s novels, one can easily appreciate that the setting of his work is linked to the reality of Kurdistan. The main literary mood and style in Bakhtiyar Ali’s novels is magic realism. However, the realist aspects of his novels are closely related to the Kurds and Kurdistan by crossing the official borders between the different parts of it.[40] His first novel, The Death of the Second Only Child, despite its unspecified setting and undefined characters, has a direct relationship with the reality of the Kurdish society. The fight between the brothers in the novel reminds the reader of the long civil wars in Kurdistan during the last decades of the 20th century. The constant armed conflict among the rival Kurdish political parties, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan, was a dominant problem during the 1980s and 1990s. The fight between Sa’id and Ashraf, and their claim to be “the only child”, is heavily rooted in the social and political reality of Kurdistan’s history. The colonel’s role in the intensifying fire of war among the brothers cannot be isolated from the interfering policies of neighboring states in the affairs of the Kurds as an ethnic minority residing within the frames of four separate nation-states (Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria). In Parwana’s Evening there are certain realist aspects that are related to the socio-political reality in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1980s and the early 1990s. The brutal military operations against the Kurds and their land resulted in the destruction of the social orders and values. The disenchantment of the younger generation from the ruling Ba’th party made them escape from that bitter condition and search for a safe haven in the “forest of lovers”. The engineering mind behind the establishment of the “forest of lovers” justifies his idea of building such a haven says: [T]his country is made of the useless and murdered love. I have come to a very unique idea. I am now convinced to liberate a love somewhere. A fantasy has stricken to my mind to make a remote piece of land as a place for some of the lovers who do not have any place to live in.[41] The setting, and the imaginary world in the “forest of the lovers”, is in accordance with what Zamora and Faris say about magical realism; that it “can be considered as extension of realism in its concern with the nature of reality and its representation.”[42]

The Last Pomegranate of the World can be read as a historical account of the Kurds at the time of their fight against various Iraqi regimes during the second half of the 20th century. The uprising of the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 and the return of Kurdish political parties from the mountains to the cities, and the process of their adjustment to the new societal conditions provide the main basis for the novel. During the 1990s, the Iraqi Kurds were desperately looking to construct their own national identity. This novel is apparently an allegory which narrates the contesting politics of the Kurdish political parties during the 1990s. Magical realist texts can act as a historical form to contribute to the formation of identity. Mikics, discussing the significant role of magic realism in the formation of identity in the post colonial countries, argues that magic realism is “a self-consciously historical form”.[43] The destiny of the three boys, all named Saryas, reveal the secrets of the revolutionaries while they were fighting against the tyrant regimes. The social and political disorder in the 1990s and the fact that thousands of Kurds left Iraqi Kurdistan for the West is the realist basis of the novel.  

The City of the White Musicians is in fact the story of a real condition in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1980s when the suppression of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein reached its climax in a series of systematic military operations, known as Anfal, against the Kurds, resulting in the killing of thousands and the burning of their villages and cities.[44] The years following the uprising of the Kurds against Saddam in 1991 are also a main part of the story. The magic aspect of this novel can be seen in the nature of a city in which the musicians, painters, writers, and those who have had an honest and original perception of life dwell. This city, as it has been depicted in the novel, is a city of dreams, a city where the sun never sets, and spring never ends.

The realistic world of the The Lyricist and the gardens of fantasy is related to the political, cultural and social life of Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. In each chapter of the novel the real time of the events is indicated. Through the novel we read about the newly emerged bourgeoisie and the Kurdish political and economic strata in the form of barons who control all aspects of socio-political and cultural life in Kurdistan. They are the residents of a district in the city, “Nwemiran” (the area of the new Emirs) where they enjoy their absolute power over all the sources of the society. The barons resist the free imagination of the Lyricist and his friends and, in an instant fight against them, aim to destroy their “Gardens of Fantasy”. The main characters of this novel work on writing the history of death in this country. While the major conflicts in Ali’s other novels are mainly between the Kurds and their “others”, in this novel, the Kurdish administration and the newly emerged Kurdish bourgeoisie become the main target for the protagonists of the novel.

There is a clear relation between The mansion of the blue birds and the reality of Iraqi Kurdistan during the late 1980s and 1990s when huge numbers of the Kurdish young generation left Kurdistan in search for a new life in the West. The novel has strong allegorical and metaphorical aspects, which through emphasising the importance of travelling, gets involved in a didactic world. The longing for travel and the fact that for several years going outside of Iraqi Kurdistan was only possible illegally, can be seen as the real background of the novel. Getting tired of all the violence that has plagued Iraqi Kurdistan for decades, and wanting to be purified from the will of murdering others are two other real backgrounds for the world of the novel. In his latest novel, My uncle Jamshid Khan whom the wind always carried with itself, the protagonist ,who has been imprisoned by Ba’th regime, looses his weight to an extent that he can be carried by the wind easily. After each time of he falls down from the sky he forgets all his memories, except for his mother tongue, Kurdish. After all his flights to different countries finally he comes back to his “home”, Kurdistan. However, due to the problems in the homeland he has to seek refuge somewhere in Europe. 


The world of the Kurdish novels is first of all characterised by their attention to the situation of the Kurds as a people who suffer from not having a country. The fight of the Kurds for their democratic national rights and their search for a land of their own are clearly reflected in all discussed novels. The question of identity is first of all related to the national identity. The idea of language has been frequently pointed out as a factor which makes the Kurds different from the others. Political issues are also mainly related to the idea of the country/homeland and fighting for its liberation. In all Kurdish novels there are signs of war. The political questions, not having been solved through peaceful mediums, have paved the way for the ongoing and heavy wars between the Kurds and the official governments of the countries where they live. The four discussed novelists in this paper, despite coming from four different parts of Kurdistan, create the world of their novels within the imaginary frame of Kurdistan. Bearing in mind that the official policy of the nation-states who govern the Kurds has generally been denying their democratic and national rights, The Kurdish novel has been a medium of resisting this policy through narrating the struggle of the Kurds in search for their identity distinct from the other ethnic and national groups in the area. Kurdish novels through contextualising historical memories contribute to the construction of a Kurdish identity distinct from the neighbouring “others”. The discussed novels simply act as “national allegories”,that has been asserted by Jameson regarding other third-world texts.[45] The novels contribute to the survival of the Kurds and Kurdistan in their relation to their “others”. The setting of the Kurdish novel creates a space, which is “a crucial component in the creation of nationalism and nationalist identities, given its potential narrative power in concretising relations between ‘us’ and ‘them’.[46] The Kurdish novel is in accordance with what Cheah states regarding the interrelationship of the novel and the nation: “A particular nation and its characteristics can be made the referent and theme of the novel’s plot and characters. Conversely, nations can also use the novel to represent themselves as in activist nationalist literature or official nationalist propaganda.”[47]

[1]Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism from 1719-1900 (New York: Colombia University Press, 2005), 50.

[2]For a range of critiques of Anderson’s Imagined Communities and The Spectre of Comparisons see Diacritics 4 (1999).

[3] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, (London and New York: Verso, 1991), 26.

[4]Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 37.

[5]Culler, 37.

[6]Aldous Huxley, Texts and Pretexts (London: Chatto&Windus, 1959), 50.

[7] Culler, 36.

[8] K. Satchidanandan,  ”Indiskt eller engelskt,” trans. Christian Sohlberg, Karavan3 (2001), 15.

[9]Malcolm Bradbury, What is a Novel? (London: Edward Arnold, 1973), 69.

[10] Bill Ashcroft and Pal Ahluwalia, Edward Said: The paradox of identity (London & New York: Routledge, 1999), 4.

[11]Wolfgang Iser, “The role of the reader in Fielding’s Joseph Andrews,” in Theory Into Practice: A Reader in Modern Literary Criticism, ed. K. M. Newton (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 96.

[12] For choosing the four most prominent and leading Kurdish novelists from four parts of Kurdistan the quality and quantity of the produced novels have been taken into consideration. A review of the Kurdish book market, literary journals and literary debates in Kurdish newspapers and on Kurdish visual media convinces a scholar of the Kurdish literature that the following authors are the most known and perceived Kurdish novelists: MehmedUzun, HelimYusiv, Ata Nahayee and Bakhtiyar Ali.

[13]Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel:1800-1900 (London: Verso, 1998), 17.

[14]MehmedUzun (1953 – 2007) was born in Siwerek, a Kurdish city in Turkish Kurdistan. After finishing his high school in Siwerek, he went to Ankara where he was to continue his studies. In 1972 he was arrested and condemned to two years imprisonment. In 1976, because of issuing the Kurdish journal Rizgari (Liberty), he was arrested again. After being imprisoned for six months, he was released. In 1977 he went to Sweden and lived there until 2006. Uzun was a member of the Swedish Writers Union. In 2000 he was elected to the International Parliament of Writers, a world-wide organization for freedom of speech founded by Salman Rushdie. On 23 May, 2001 he received the prize of freedom of expression from the Turkish Association of Publishers. During his life in exile he published seven novels: Tu (you), MirinaKaleki Rind (death of a Nice old man), SiyaEvine (shadow of love), RojekJiRojenEvdaleZeynike (from the days of EvdalZeynike), BiraQadare (the wellof Destiny), Roni Mina EvineTari Mina Mirine (light like love, dark like death), HawaraDijclay  (the cry of Tigris).

[15]MehmedUzun, Roni Mina EvineTari Mina Mirine (light like love, dark like death), (Istanbul:  Avesta, 1998), 31.

[16]Renan, Ernest. “What is a Nation?,” in Nation and Narration, ed. H. K. Bhabha (London: Routledge,1990), 19.

[17]HelimYusiv was born in 1967 in Amude in Syrian Kurdistan. Since 2000 he lives in Germany. By now he has published three novels: Sobarto (Sobarto), Tirsa Be Dran (the toothless fear) and GavaMasi Ti Dibin (when the fish gets thirsty). 

[18] On 13 November 1960 the only cinema in Amude was burned and more than three hundred Kurdish children died. See, accessed on 16 April 2011.

[19] March is the first month in the Kurdish New Year. 21st of March as the first day of the New Year is widely celebrated by the Kurds as a symbol for the victory of people over the tyranny and oppressors. In the modern history of the Kurds there have been many Kurdish political achievements in this month, e.g. the autonomy agreement with the Iraqi regime in 10 March 1970, the chemical bombardment of the Kurdish city Halabja in 1988, and the uprising of the Iraqi Kurds in March 1991 against Saddam Husein that resulted in the liberation of many Kurdish cities in Iraqi Kurdistan.  

[20]The consequences of the unrest in the Kurdish city Qamishluin March 2004 in which tens of Kurdish demonstrators were shot and hundreds of them were arrested, are clearly referred to.

[21]In an occasion the exiled protagonist attacks a blond man on a street in London supposing that he is the British foreign affairs secretary, Sykes, who together with the French secretary of Foreign affairs, Picot, signed an agreement in 1916 that paved the way for the division of Kurdistan following the WW1.

[22]T. M. O’Shea, Trapped Between the Map and Reality (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 162.

[23]Ata Nahayee was born in Bane, a city in Iranian Kurdistan, in 1960. He has by now published three novels:Guli Shoran (the Shoran flower), Balndakani Dam Ba (birds with the wind), andGrawiBakhtiHalala: DwarojekaniBalndayaki Kocher (Betting on Halala’s fortune: The last days of a migrant bird). He has also published three collections of short stories, Tangana (straits), Zrika (cry), and EwBalndaBrindara ka Minim (that wounded bird that I am). He has also published a series of translations of Persian literary works into Kurdish.

[24] The name of the novel is taken from a known Kurdish ballad, Las u Khazaļ, which is partly referred to in the story. The ballad has both a lyrical and an epic character. There is intersexuality between Guli Shoran and this traditional and well-known Kurdish ballad. Las is the name of a hard and thorny tree. A completed written version of the ballad is available in Oskar Mann,Tohfeh-ye Mozaffariyyeh, introduced, collated and set into Kurdish Letters by HeminMukeryani (Mahabad: Saydiyan, 1985/1364), 87-93, 102-118.

[25]Armstrong, 3.

[26] Nicholas H. Smith and Charles Taylor, Meaning, Morals and modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 2002), 98.

[27] Ata Nahyaee, Guli Shoran (Saqiz: Mohammadi, 1998), 38-39.

[28] P.  Bourdieu, “Rethinking the state: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field,” Sociological Theory1(1994): 7.

[29] Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 96.

[30] One of the most humiliating actions to inflict upon against a Kurdish man, according to the traditions, is to cut the crotch of his trousers (‘nafokbrin). During the reign of Reza Shah, the government agents used to cut the crutch of Kurdish trousers in order to force the Kurds to abandon their traditional trousers and wear western-type trousers.   

[31]Nahayee, GuliShoran , 111.

[32]Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981-1991( London: Granta Books1991)13-14.

[33]Rushdie, 13.

[34]Ata Nahayee, Balndakani Dam Ba (birds with the wind), (Sanandaj: Jiyar, 2002), 28.

[35]Nahayee, Balindakani Dam Ba, 15.

[36]Ata Nahayee, GrawiBakhtiHalala: DwarojekaniBalndayaki Kocher (Betting on Halala’s fortune: The last days of a migrant bird), (Silemani: Ranj, 2007), 7.

[37]Nahayee, GrawiBakhtiHalala, 39.

[38]Nahayee, GrawiBakhtiHalala, 45.

[39] The Kurdish author Bakhtiyar Ali, was born in Sulaymaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan, in 1960 and has been living in Germany since 1996. During recent years he has visited Kurdistan numerous times. His first novel, Margi TaqanayDuham (the death of the second only child), was published in 1997 in Sweden. Since then, he has published six more novels: EwarayParwana (Parwana’s evening), DwahaminHanariDunya (the last pomegranate of the world), Shari MosiqaraSpiyakan (the city of the white musicians), Ghazalus u BaghakaniKhayal (the Lyricist and the gardens of fantasy), KoshkiBalindaGhamginakan (the mansion of the blue birds) and JamshidKhaniMamimkeHamishabalegelKhoydaDaybird (my uncle Jamshid Khan whom the wind always carried with itself). Thousands of copies of his recent novels have been printed in Kurdistan. One of the publishers of his novels in Kurdistan, Ranj, is reported to have paid him an advance percentage of the indicated price of his published novels, something which is absolutely unprecedented in Kurdistan. In a report published on the BBC website it has been noted that “Ali has been paid $25,000 by a publisher in the Kurdish region of Iraq who has printed 10,000 copies of Ghazalnus and the Gardens of Imagination”. See, accessed 18 February 2009.

[40] In another article, “Magic Realism in the novels of a Kurdish Writer ,Bakhtiyar Ali”, I have discussed the stylistic features of Ali’s novels. Journal of Middle Eastern Literatures, forthcoming, 2011.

[41] Ali, Ewarey, 72.

[42]Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, eds.,Magical Realism: Theory, History , Community(Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 6.

[43] David Mikics, “Derek Walcott and AlejoCarpentier: Nature, History, and the Caribbean Writer,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History , Community, eds.L. P.Zamora and W. B. Faris, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 373.

[44]For a good account on Anfal and the treatment of the Kurds by the Iraqi regime in the 1980s, Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign against the Kurds (New York: Middle East Watch, 1993). On the history of the Kurds in Iraq, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, see Michael Gunter, TheKurdish Predicament in Iraq (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999).

[45]Fredric Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” SocialText 15(1986) 69.

[46]Helena L. Schulz and J. Hammer, The Palestinian Diaspora: Formation of Identities and Politics of Homeland (London: Routledge, 2003), 15.

[47]PhengCheah, “Grounds of Comparison,” Diacritics 4 (1999): 8.