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Samuel Shimon was born into an Assyrian family in 1956 in Al-Habbaniyah, Iraq. He left Iraq in 1979 to go to Hollywood and become a film-maker, and got as far as Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Nicosia, Cairo and Tunis. In 1985 he settled in Paris, where he started the small press Gilgamesh Editions, publishing a number of volumes of poetry and fiction by Arab authors including, in 1987, a volume of his own poetry, Old Boy. In 1996 he published a collection of poems Rain on my mother’s letters, in the same year moving to London, where he has lived ever since.
He co-founded Banipal magazine, and from September 2010 has been its Editor. In 2000, he and his wife Margaret Obank (co-founder and publisher of Banipal) edited A Crack in the Wall, poems by sixty contemporary Arab poets.
His autobiographical novel An Iraqi in Paris, was published in Arabic in 2005, with a limited first edition in English translation published the same year. The Arab press described it as “unique in Arabic language – reminds us of Henry Miller” and “one of the gems of autobiographical writings in the modern period – the era of the image and the revolution of the spectacle”, and “a manifesto of tolerance”. The Times Literary Supplement described it as “a forgiving and powerful book” and The Independent as “an Arabic answer to Miller’s Tropic of Cancer”.
Front cover of the new 3rd edition, fully revised by the author
An Iraqi in Paris (English translation) was long-listed for the 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It was nominated for the Long List of the 2006 Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Literary Reportage 2006, but as expected for what is clearly a novel, failed to go further. A Swedish edition (Alhambra Förlag) was published in 2007, and a French edition, Un iraqien à Paris, in April 2008 by Actes Sud. In 2009 a chapter was published in German translation in the German literary magazine Sprachgebunden with a complementary reading and discussion taking place at the Berlin Literature Festival in September 2009.
In January 2011 a new re-translated English edition of An Iraqi in Paris was published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. In March 2011, Samuel Shimon was giving readings and talks on modern Arabic literature at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of North Carolina.
He was also interviewed (click here to read) by Nick March of the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National on the eve of publishing an issue of Banipal devoted to Emirati Writing in 2011 (see Banipal 42).
And, in November 2011 Kaitlin Hawkins interviewed him for World Literature Today. Click here to read the interview, entitled "My Life as Cinema".
He founded the popular literary website Kikah in Arabic in 2002, and in 2013 founded the Arabic-language Kikah magazine for international literature (see www.kikahmagazine.com). A profile in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2003 described him as “the Initiator” and “a tireless missionary for literary matters”.
In 2010 he edited Beirut39: New Writing from the Arab World, the anthology of writing by the 39 authors of the Beirut39 Hay festival project.
"Pedlar, traveller, militant, refugee, literary authority? Above all, perhaps, this personable Iraqi is a movie buff, a kind of frustrated filmmaker. It would be hard to follow the chronological life course of so non-linear a man. Suffice to say that 10 years since settling in London – where his name has become synonymous with both Banipal, the English language's best known journal of Arabic literature, and kikah.com, the vastly popular "website for Arab and international cultures" – Shimon's hard-won sense of fulfilment belies dreams unrealised . . .
So begins an interview with Samuel Shimon by Youssef Rakha in Al-Ahram Weekly in August 2006. For link to full interview click here.
In 2013 he founded Kikah magazine for international literature in Arabic.
In 2016 Banipal Books published a third fully revised edition of An Iraqi in Paris. For all details, click here