Interview with longlisted author Dunya Mikhail


When did you begin writing The Bird Tattoo and where did the inspiration for it come from?

When I learned in 2014 of the opening of a market in Iraq and Syria where women were sold, I couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen in this day and age. I felt incredibly insulted. So I went to the villages of northern Iraq to find out for myself, or perhaps to place my hand upon the wound. I kept the trip a secret, since I didn’t want my family to worry about me. They thought that I was in Jordan to take part in an evening of poetry readings and that was all. I met women who had just fled from Isis. Some of them spoke to me in Kurdish, which I don’t understand, but their pain came across so clearly. After that, I wrote a lot about them in poetry, narrative and non-fiction. But there was still a creative urge within me to write an imaginative work based on reality, but not in the sense that it would be a straightforward, mirror-like reflection. Rather, it would imagine the truth of what happened without losing the element of pure artistry and aesthetics.

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?

Field research, meetings and phone conversations took two years, and writing the novel took a further two years.    

How have readers and critics received it?

It made a strong impression on many readers and friends who sent messages and left comments about it on social media, and many articles have also appeared in the Arabic press. The “Al-Adeeb” cultural magazine devoted a special supplement to it, in its issue number 234. This included articles written about the novel by distinguished critics.

What is your next literary project after this novel?


At the moment I am working on a collection of poetry as well as some memoirs.