Kirkuk was recently named the Iraqi capital of culture for 2010, according to Aswat Al Iraq.
Generally I don’t follow these “capital of X” designations (Beirut is the capital of something right now, isn’t it?) but the name Kirkuk is evocative, to me, of literary art.
Kirkuk intellectuals apparently have applauded the selection of the multi-ethnic city. For me, the northern Iraqi city is associated with the “Kirkuk group” of writers, most notably novelist Fadhil al-Azzawi and poet Sargon Boulos.
By coincidence, I believe, Youssef Rakha recently translated Boulos’s “The Refugee Tells” and posted it on his website. It begins:
The refugee absorbed in telling his tale
feels no burning, when the cigarette stings his fingers.
He’s absorbed in the awe of being Here
after all those Theres: the stations, and the ports,
the search parties, the forged papers…