An Iraqi American, Kanan Makiya has been described as the Arab world’s “Solzhenitsyn” for courageously bearing witness to unspeakable cruelty. His new critically acclaimed novel, The Rope, is at once a murder mystery and a poignant story of a militia man, his closest friends, and family – all working at cross purposes after the invasion of Iraq. The book illuminates what went wrong in Iraq in a way that nonfiction is ill-equipped to do. In his address, he will also explore what went wrong in the Arab Spring and what the lessons are for all of us today. Guests at the dinner will receive a complimentary copy of the book.
In 1989, his book Republic of Fear was published under a pseudonym to protect his family, for it brought to light the bizarre character of the Saddam regime. It became a bestseller after the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990. His book Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World, published under his own name in 1993, was awarded the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations in English in 1993. The book denounced those in the Middle East who failed to speak out loud the unpalatable truths about widespread repression.
His many essays have appeared in the NY Times, the NY Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere, and his books have been translated in many languages including Arabic, French, Turkish and Spanish. He has also collaborated on the production of several films — one aired on Frontline under the title “Saddam’s Killing Fields” which won the Edward R. Morrow Award for Best Television Documentary on Foreign Affairs in 1992.
In 2003 he founded the Iraq Memory Foundation, which has collected and digitized 10 million pages of Saddam era documents, which have been deposited at the Hoover Institution, where scholars like FPRI’s Sam Helfont have mined them for understanding the Saddam era. Currently, he is the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University.
FPRI’s Samuel Helfont reviewed The Rope along with two of Makiya’s other books, Republic of Fear and Cruelty and Silence. You can read his review here.
Recent recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Award include Henry A. Kissinger, Amb. Robert Zoellick, Gen. James Mattis, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Robert D. Kaplan, Walter Russell Mead, and the late Fouad Ajami.