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Let Me Tell You What I Saw: extracts from Uruk's Anthem by Adnan al Sayegh trans. By Jenny Lewis, Ruba Abughaida

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Let Me Tell You What I Saw is the first ever publication as a dual-language (English/Arabic) text of substantial extracts from Adnan Al-Sayegh’s ground-breaking epic poem, Uruk’s Anthem, one of the longest poems ever written in Arabic literature, which gives voice to the profound despair of the Iraqi experience. This superb translation by Jenny Lewis, Ruba Abughaida and others, brings the eloquent original Arabic epic to a new readership.

Uruks Anthem has been described as beautiful, powerful and courageous and at the same time apocalyptic and terrifying in its unwavering scrutiny of, and opposition to, oppression and dictatorship wherever it occurs in the world. Fusing ancient Arabic and Sumerian poetic traditions with many innovative and experimental features of both Arabic and Western literature, Uruks Anthem might best be described as a modernist dream poem that frequently strays into nightmare; yet it is also imbued with a unique blend of history, mythology, tenderness, lyricism, humour and surrealism. It took twelve years to write (1984-1996). During eight years of that time Adnan was forced to fight in the Iran-Iraq War. Many of his friends were killed and he spent eighteen months in an army detention centre, a disused stable and dynamite store, dangerously close to the border with Iran. A smaller selection of extracts from Uruks Anthem (translated by Jenny Lewis and Ruba Abughaida) was published in English for the first time in Singing for Inanna (Mulfran Press, 2014) a first step towards this important, more comprehensive translation, Let Me Tell You What I Saw, which includes notes to the text and an introduction by Jenny Lewis, and a note from Ruba Abughaida, translator.

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