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Articles tagged "Iraqi Literature"

Mass Grave

An Epitaph for all our Friends Denied a Tomb and especially for my Cousin, whose Body was Dumped in a Mass Grave They found my cousin’s body in a mass grave.  Our truck wasn't the only one turned away by this prison because it was overcrowded. Actually, many trucks, which were so crowded with men they swayed, were rejected by this prison. The guard repeated respectfully to each driver, “If I could, I would make room for your load.” Then the...

The Sad Portuguese

Luis Carvalho was the “sad Portuguese”—that is what they called him, or at least what we called him, we the children in the neighborhoods of Sif, Mahallat al-Pasha, Nadhran, and Bllush, even when we were grown boys and then teenagers, but before we became men, because the war came upon us and did not allow us to complete our years together—it took most of the group to the graveyard before they had lived out even a quarter of their lives.  It was the same war...

Beyond the Trauma of War: Iraqi Literature Today

A decade after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, we cannot approach Iraqi literature today without recognizing the multiple shifts and varieties in its expression. In a matter of ten years, the post-Ba'thist era has witnessed the sudden fall of a long-lasting dictatorship, an encounter with Western occupation, and an unprecedented upsurge in sectarian discourses, to name only the most prominent events. In addition to these influences, the development of contemporary Iraqi...

The Green Zone Rabbit

Before the egg appeared, I would read a book about law or religion every night before going to sleep. Like my rabbit, I would be most active in the hours around dawn and sunset. Salsal, on the other hand, would stay up late at night and wake up at midday. And before he even got out of bed he would open his laptop and log on to Facebook to check the latest comments on the previous night’s discussion, then eventually go and have a bath. After that he would go into the kitchen, turn on...

Salman and the Mule Suicides

My acquaintance with Salman extends back to our military service, to the winter of 1984, I think. In that year I began to serve in a series of units that fought in the mountains, cities, and canebrakes of Kurdistan. Till then, before being ordered to serve in the logistics battalion in a suburb of the city of Sulaimaniya at the Dukan Dam, to be precise, I had served in the Division of Military Veterinary Affairs under the command of the Third Army Corps in Basra. The Iran-Iraq War was...

Be Quiet, Soldiers

At the Ajeerda divide, the strip of land that separates the marshes on the eastern side, east of the city of Amarah, we were gathered into deeply dug-out positions. Thousands of soldiers, dressed in khaki uniforms, we were packed together, drenched by the rain, with our helmets and weapons. We placed ourselves in various positions, small sandbags above us, their exposed sides submerged in water and mud. The mud was so deep that we sank into it up to our thighs. The rain hadn’t...

A Portal in Space

The Friday bombardment started a little later than usual, at 8:30 a.m. The sound was loud and clear. Umm Anwar sighed, and her pain showed clearly in her expression. Furrowing her brow and ready to explode, she exclaimed to herself loud enough for the others to hear: “The downpour has begun, O Conqueror, O Provider.” Her son, Anwar, straightened up and rested his elbow on the sofa. He looked at his sister to check her reaction. Then he remarked calmly, “At the end of...

The One-Eyed TV

Just as the thirteenth year of my life started, the Iraqi-Iran war began. Before it was even a year old, my oldest brother was killed and one of my cousins was taken as a prisoner of war. That is when I began hearing my father curse “Mr. President” whenever he found himself alone with my mother in the orchard, kitchen, or bedroom, or as she milked our cows in the pen. I was irremediably confused as I sat torn between these obscene curses and those beautiful pictures and songs...

Merrymaking

He is not a tightrope walker, a snake charmer, or a tiger tamer. His hands are empty no charm or sleight to them, and he does not have any puppets, hoops, pungis, or whips—his mere body is his only apparatus for a peculiar kind of entertainment, a unique sort of adventure that no one before has witnessed or experienced. If the acrobat walks lightly on his tightrope, the charmer blows into his pungi and tilts his head with the snake, and the tamer lashes his whip in the air in a...

Music in a Baghdad Alley

No matter where you settle or wander That first melody is yours At every arrival and departure Its living face will meet you at the entrance that remains If you walk and the opposing wind is in your face and Death alone is the alternative To hear it departing between worlds, where you go and come. Did you not hear it one night As you were passing under a balcony? Your longing still anchors it in the heart of wandering A blind musician shaking it off From the nooks in his...

In Saadi Shirazi’s Garden (When He Was a Prisoner)

The river flows. Guides hide in the woods. I am a single day dragging an apocalypse of days. Wounded battalions smelling the burning air through the dried blood on the nose. Because the city of water is not far. It is there. The rose orchard is there and there is a golden cup of poison guarded by an angel’s hands. The river gestures from a distance with the shut eyes of an intoxicated concubine and so on until it reaches its end in its own dream.  But from the wall to the...

The Arab Altar

The last thing on our minds was celebrating our wedding, after we had waited so long, to the sound of air raid sirens and the reverberation of Dushka guns targeting the Iranian airplanes attacking Baghdad. Maryam had done everything she could to postpone the wedding, using arguments and excuses I found totally unconvincing. I was doing an MA in contemporary literature at the University of Baghdad. Once I was accepted there, Maryam volunteered to help me check sources and references for my...

The Mulberry Tree

My city—Mosul—was economical even in its delights. During its unhurried spring, which was fragrant with the scents of grass and wild flowers, there were only a few places for people to go on excursions. When they were unable to enjoy an outing, they would tell the following story. A young woman wished to leave her house for an outing, but her husband objected: “What can a person find outside that he doesn’t find at home?” The woman replied, “Grass....

from “Kumait”

He couldn’t help but see the school; from the time he had left the bus at the township’s station, he had never thought of going any other way. His feet felt at home on the township’s roads. So be it. Why should he take any other route? When he drew near the school, he paused opposite it, turning his back to the river. A giant willow tree rose from the center of the school’s courtyard. He really didn’t want any of the township’s residents to spot him,...

from “Dreaming of Baghdad”

His life was short but rich, crammed with events. He was arrested at the age of seventeen, released five years later, and executed when he was twenty-four. At the foot of the mountains, the bushes burn and the vines are trodden. Herbs are burning, villages are burning, huts of leaves and branches are burning. Young men take refuge in caves. After the danger has passed, I hear his laughter. Has he ever stopped laughing? I try now, as I have tried in the past, to forget his mutilated...

The Psychiatrist

My new position gave me contact with refugees from various communities in Copenhagen. Three municipalities had engaged me to study the cases of ordinary patients or ones whose health conditions were hard to classify. The assignment culminated with my analysis and appraisal of the patient's mental health and then my written report, which the municipality would use for a number of different purposes. Most refugees need assistance and treatment, even if they aren't conscious of it....

Silence

Winds that do not blow in the evening, and winds that do not blow at dawn have burdened me with a book of boughs. I see my cry in the silence. Night descends, blue, between staircases and stars. I see blue trees, abandoned streets, and a country of sand. I had a home and lost it. I had a home and left it. How close the stars are! They cling to my steps. O blue trees, blue woods, night! we have ended up in a world collapsing or beginning or dying. Trees for severed...

Departure ‘82

Soon all the rooms will be closed, and beginning with the basement, we will leave them one by one until we reach the guns on the roof. We will leave them too . . . like the rooms and go on to search in our blood or in our maps for new rooms. September 26, 1984

The Jazz Corner

A moment after midnight every night jazz begins to soak the Jazz Corner like new wine like village wine A moment after midnight every night a woman descends a dark staircase to sing Brazil or balconies in candlelight or the village girls A moment after midnight every night A door is opened and the flower seller enters tired and she leaves tired and crowned with anguish and the aroma of the villages A moment, after the clock strikes three I shut my lids The...

A Shiver

Hold me, comfort me The stones are nothing but pain tonight Hold me to your breast so that I ramble: The stars are gray as ash and the road to them is ablaze with light. 1993

Koofa

We did not name it so that it would become a city. We came to it thirsty starved limping on blazing sands, blinded by sun glow. We cut the world from Mecca to the palace of Naaman. We cut the world with a sword until bone protruded through our hands and whitened. When we reached water we said let us rest here and watch the bank where water pours, flows, and pours. We dipped our swords in it. Trembling, we sheathed our hands and prayed. We did not name it so that it...

The Bird’s Last Flight

When I enter the earth's nest contented and glad, my wings resting, I will free my eyelids so not to see the trees swaying nearer. Do not cry over me. I said do not cry. If you wish, remember that my wings are water and there is no water without waves and no waves without a shore where they crash. I rest here contented and glad to have reached the last shore. Do not cry. Even the sound of my breathing cannot reach me . . . Damascus, February 8, 1995

Five Crosses

We stopped in five stations and did not leave a souvenir. We did not shiver there, or get drunk, or strum a guitar. Five rivers of sand on the guitar. Five crosses made of silence: You are sad; I wipe the dust of the broken world off your eyelashes. You are naive; in our desert you are hoping to set sail. You are tired; your hair spreads shade between wakefulness and rain. You are alone as if we never shivered, or got drunk, or strummed a guitar. Bitter thirst on your...

Lisa

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from Cell Block Five

It took me some long months to realize that I was incarcerated. My dreams had suddenly ended. Like Zoroaster I awoke from a lengthy slumber to discover rudely and bitterly that justice does not always favor innocence. Indeed, it occasionally takes the other side and adds to the number of victims and martyrs. In the final analysis this meant one thing for me: I might rot away inside this penitentiary without anyone noticing my existence. It seemed to me that they might not release me even...

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