The Author Of The First Kurdish Novel Written in English Talks To ZÎV

Letters from a Kurd is the first Kurdish novel written in English, and talks about a young man called Marywan who grows up in Iraqi Kurdistan when the Kurds were under the heel of Saddam Hussein, whom Marywan secretly nicknames Qayishbaldar – the monster. Marywan suffers throughout his life just for being a Kurd.

Kae Bahar
Kae Bahar

The author Kae Bahar himself, grew up in Iraqi Kurdistan under Saddam regime, and was arrested and tortured by the secret police at the age of 14 for the same reason. With his family’s help, he managed to escape to Italy to avoid further arrests and possible death.

This heart-breaking novel is highly educational and brings a better understanding of the Kurdish culture and people and their history through the life of Marywan.

Letters from a Kurd was published by UK-based Yolk Publishing Limited and it’s highly recommended to all Kurds and anyone who seek for knowledge of history in Middle East.

Kae Bahar is a filmmaker now after he made several documentaries, and he is the only Kurd both inside and outside Kurdistan to have had his films screened by the major broadcasters such as BBC, ITN, Al Jazeera Int.

ZÎV had the honor to interview him to tell us more about Letters from a Kurd.

  • You will see a camel going through the eye of a needle before you see me crying and I opened myself to her like a ripe fig. What did inspire you getting these kind of comparisons? Is it a part of the Kurdish culture?

Some of these are part of the Kurdish culture. I like them because they are very effective to convey a lot with fewer words and that’s what these old sayings are doing for me, especially when mixed with some expressions that I have created like; I opened myself to her like a ripe fig.

  • While reading the book, there were some parts where I felt the amount of drama is unbelievable and too harsh. Do you think that someone in Kirkuk, or anyone has ever suffered in their childhood as Marywan did?

The Kurds are famous for saying: every Kurd has a life painted with drama and every Kurdish life can make a novel full of unbelievable tragedies, and Marywan is a representation, an accumulation of these dramas as individuals and as a whole.

  • Is “Letters from a Kurd” just fiction or was it based on many mixed real stories of people you have known or heard of?

The book is fiction but has a backdrop in reality – there is nothing in there that has not happened for real in the life of a Kurd or many Kurds like Marywan. It is not only particular to Kirkuk but to every corner of Kurdistan. The characters are fiction but they too are born out of real stories that happened either to myself, to friends or family members, or to people I knew or read about. It is a realty turned fiction so that it can appeal to readers worldwide.Karzan or Sandokan 1

  • The book talked bravely about Islam and atheism. What was the reaction of the Kurdish society, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan, of the most controversial parts of it?

As long as the discussion and the talks are balanced as they are in the book,  I think it will go down without much difficulties, but of course you can never write to satisfy everyone, and there will be always one who would try to take advantage. It is then down to the Kurds as to how they respond to it – as far as I am concerned, as a writer I need to feel free to express myself and my thoughts, as Marywan says, take away my freedom of speech, take away my life.

  • What would you like to tell people who haven’t had the chance to read the book yet?

I have spent 4 years writing this book and I was not sponsored by anyone because it was my first novel, a long emotional journey at times very difficult to pursue without screaming. We had to sell our beautiful house in order for me to keep writing and have some financial stability until I finished the book. I wrote this book for everyone to read, first of all because I love storytelling, and I believe this book has a great story to share, not only with Kurds but readers from around the world. I also hope for the worldwide readers to learn about us Kurds and to support us with our ultimate dream, to have our own independent Kurdistan.

  • You told Rudaw : “For two years I was locked at home writing between 14 and 16 hours a day, just to come out with a draft of the novel” what were those days like?

Before writing this novel I was active in the UK as an actor, documentary filmmaker and screenplay writer. But when “Letters from a Kurd” took over my life, I abandoned all my activities, my work, my social life, my friends and family and did nothing but write and write. It was so intense that when at times I went for a short walk in the park it would take me good fifteen minutes or more to realize I was actually in London and not in the world of my book. I loved the story from the beginning, it was pouring out of me like a waterfall, and I would gladly spend hours on end with the characters, they were so real for me that they kept me locked in the room. I will laugh and cry with them. I talked to them and shared myself with them as if I was living in the story. Many nights driving home well after midnight, I would stop at a petrol station for a couple of hours writing more of the story. I believe the story and the characters took over and they just used me as an kin order for them to come to life.11212322_1616340718580484_789213545_n

  • Letters from a Kurd is the first Kurdish novel written in English and you have taken significant risk to make this happen, like temporarily abandoning your acting work, documentary filmmaking, and you even sold your house, why do you think that we desperately need more of these books?

“Letters from a Kurd” is the first Kurdish novel written in English and published in the UK on a professional standard and even if I risked my life and gambled everything for this book, I would do it again only to have one Kurdish international product on the shelves of the world market. This is so important to me as a Kurd, to have made it to place this bool which I can be identified with and refered to worldwide.  Although there were some attempts by other writers but they did not make it to this level in the market. Thanks to “Letters from a Kurd”, from now on we too have a voice out there, it is only a start but a good start to give hope to all the Kurds that we too can make it and to reach out to the world through creative work, which is the best way for the world to get to know the true colourful culture of the Kurds and their lust for a free life.

You can buy Letters from a Kurd in the bookshops in United Kingdom, and for the readers worldwide; you can get the book on Amazon and on Kindle here: