Sinan Antoon returns to the Iraq war in a poetic and provocative tribute to reclaiming memory
Widely-celebrated author Sinan Antoon’s fourth and most sophisticated novel follows Nameer, a young Iraqi scholar earning his doctorate at Harvard, who is hired by filmmakers to help document the devastation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During the excursion, Nameer ventures to al-Mutanabbi street in Baghdad, famed for its bookshops, and encounters Wadood, an eccentric bookseller who is trying to catalogue everything destroyed by war, from objects, buildings, books and manuscripts, flora and fauna, to humans.
Entrusted with the catalogue and obsessed with Wadood’s project, Nameer finds life in New York movingly intertwined with fragments from his homeland’s past and its present—destroyed letters, verses, epigraphs, and anecdotes—in this stylistically ambitious panorama of the wreckage of war and the power of memory.
Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, and translator, and an associate professor at New York University. Born in Baghdad, he left Iraq after the Gulf War. He is the author of several books, including The Corpse Washer.Jonathan Wright is an award-winning translator of works by authors including Ahmed Saadawi, Saud Alsanousi, and Youssef Ziedan.
“An Iraqi scholar finds his New York life interconnected with his homeland’s past and present when he encounters an eccentric bookseller in Baghdad.”—Tammy Tarng, New York Times Book Review (“Summer Reading” issue)
"One of the most acclaimed authors of the Arab world"—al-Ahram Weekly
“Reads extraordinarily smoothly . . . Well presented, and effective in portraying the devastating cost of war and all that is lost in it.”—M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review
“Autofiction, by definition, centers around questions of the self . . . But The Book of Collateral Damage pushes the form one step further . . . to interrogate the loss of self.”—Will Preston, Full Stop
“The author reclaims his own narrative of what happened to his home country and navigates the cultural politics of his hybrid identity as an Iraqi American intellectual. However, in addition to the acute human attention to details, the novel moves beyond cultural and identity politics to a posthuman view . . . giving agency to things and places that the war consumes.”—Ghyath Manhel, World Literature Today
“The gifted novelist and poet Sinan Antoon . . . fills his pictorial prose with life-affirming energy surrounded by destruction. . . . Truly a literary feat, The Book of Collateral Damage pays tribute to Iraqis on a multitude of levels while telling a complex story of immigration.”—Lynne Rogers, Al Jadid
“A provocative novel.”—Spencer Dew, Religious Studies Review
Long listed for the 2020 Best Translated Book Award, sponsored by Three Percent
"Sinan Antoon is one of the great fiction writers of our time."—Alberto Manguel, author of Library at Night
"Sinan Antoon is a master storyteller and The Book of Collateral Damage reaffirms his place amongst some of our very best writers. Vividly imagined and sensitively told, this is a tale of one man's exile and return, and all the distances traveled to find a semblance of home."—Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze
"Mixing the past and the present of Arabic literature, Sinan Antoon leads a hallucinatory investigation into the territories of memory and tragedies of Iraq. A deep reflection on exile and the power of books."—Mathias Enard, author of Compass