The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ghayath Almadhoun

By Aminah Sheikh

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To survive.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I just finished my new Arabic poetry collection Adrenaline. As I say, I try to survive, like Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights, who keeps telling the king stories to not get killed.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I don’t know really, but I can feel it have a strong effect on people.

Who are your favorite authors?

From the thinkers: Edward Said.

From the short story writer: the Iraqi Hassan Blasim.

In poetry: Amjad Nasser, Ghassan Zaqtan, Saadi Yousef and Salah Faik.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My poem “Schizophrenia”, which I wrote after Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians. I got the chance to stay for two weeks in the city of Ypres, invited by “deBuren” and “citybooks”. The visit coincided with the centenary of the first chemical attack in history, which occurred in Flanders Fields during the First World War. I remember that I visited most of the 170 cemeteries that surround the city of Ypres and hold the bodies of 600,000 soldiers that were killed there. I was listening to The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate which is held every evening at Menin Gate for the past 89 years, and after that I wrote Schizophrenia, moving between Ypres (the past), Damascus (the present), Stockholm (the peace that I enjoy) and Palestine (the dream).

What’s your idea of bliss?

Peace, freedom and justice.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?


What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Book of poems Al-Mutanabbi from the 10th-century, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Márquez because I would like to read it again, Terre des hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry because I would like to remember my childhood.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

My computer because there is another house inside it.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.  

I’m “poetring” the world!


Biography: (please note: the underlined are for me to hyperlink)

Ghayath Almadhoun is a Palestinian poet born in Damascus, in 1979. He has lived in Stockholm since 2008. Almadhoun has published three collections of poetry, the latest in Beirut in 2014. In Sweden he has been translated and published in two collections: Asylansökan (Ersatz, 2010), which was awarded the Klas de Vylders stipendiefond for immigrant writers. He also authored Till Damaskus (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2014) together with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg, which was included in “Dagens Nyheter” (the largest Swedish newspaper) literary critic list for Best New Books and converted to a Radio Play for Swedish National Radio. With Silkeberg, Almadhoun has also made several poetry films. His work has been translated into Swedish, German, Dutch, Greek, Slovenian, Italian, English, French, Danish and Chinese. The Dutch translation of Almadhon’s poems, Weg van Damascus was one of the top 10 selling poetry books in Belgium for several weeks in 2015. “Adrenaline” a poetry collection by Almadhoun and translated into English by Catherine Cobham is upcoming in the fall by Action Books, USA.

His website:


Aminah Sheikh is the Online Editor of Kitaab