Calling You, Calling All Literary Baghdads

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is calling for submissions — with a deadline of March 15 — to a new anthology that will explore, (re)create, and celebrate literary Baghdad:

Baghdad-fihristThe anthology of fictional texts takes its inspiration from “real” one: a pioneering bibliographic work by Baghdadi bookseller and bibliographer Ibn al-Nadim (d. c 998), who compiled a bibliography of Arabic and translated literatures — some 7,000 titles and descriptions — in his Kitab al-Fihrist.

Many of the volumes about which Ibn al-Nadim writes have been lost, either during the 1258 sacking of Baghdad or since. The AAWW project leaps forward a millennium and connects the loss of these works to the 2007 bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street, the city’s central bookselling corridor.

According to anthology organizer Manan Ahmed, the project’s “genesis was really just thinking about al-Nadim and what amazing worlds are hidden in those titles and those biographies. We were discussing the Fihrist since summer. There is a lot of scholarship analysing the Fihrist, but little works of pure imagination.”

“A connection with al-Mutanabbi was natural extension.”

According to the call for submissions:

We at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop want to face our collective political and cultural shrugging off of Baghdad. We want to create a conversation that remembers the literary Baghdad—without which we could not imagine contemporary philosophy, sciences, or arts. We want a conversation that recognizes in our selves, and our literary productions, the seeds of all Baghdads, past, present, and future.

So, to do so, AAWW wants to take a “page from Borges’ imagination, and bring into being that which already exists.” It calls on you — all of you — to “reimagine al-Nadim’s literary world.”

Left with the skeleton of his collection, we solicit brief imagined reviews of the titles in al-Nadim’s Book of Lists. Join us as we take a small step in reconstructing the heart and history of literary Baghdad, and to tie us all in knots closer and tighter than we acknowledge elsewhere.

AAWW asks for brief, imagined reviews (100-500 words) of any of the selected titles, from the Bayard Dodge translation of al-Fihrist. ” I chose them for their ‘literary inventiveness,’ Ahmed said, “and because these are the books I wanted to read.”

Ahmed didn’t have a review-prescription in mind, and said he was looking for “whatever the writerly imagination conjures up…”


From Volume II of Bayard Dodge’s translation 

AAWW: The list of titles and how to submit