Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Iraq, from inside, from outside

Many left my country since the 1970s. Many writers. Most, if not all, were unknown to us. Us, the insiders. We, the insiders, were subjected to an intense media censorship. Books, magazines, newspapers, radio, satellite channels were all filtered by the previous regimen. It was only after the 2003 war when we start to know some of those Iraqi writers living abroad. Al-Kamel publications is a publishing company started in Germany by an Iraqi and developed to be one of the known publishing companies to the Iraqis after 2003. most of the Iraqi writers were unknown to me. Going to Al-Kamel publications in Bab-Al-Muathaam in the centre of Baghdad is always an adventure of discovery for me. I hold many books and start reading the notes on the back cover and few lines from the introduction. One day I bought two books.

I never heard of the writers before. Samuel Shamon was the first name to catch my attention. His book is entitled “an Iraqi in Paris”. It caught my attention because of the name of the writer. The name sounds like a name of an Iraqi Jew. They were a treasure those people. Most of them are productive people for the society. The first psychiatrist in Iraq was a Jew, dr. jacky shabi abboud. We lost them because our politicians were careless, or may be ignorant, or both.
The other book caught my attention because of its title “Juma’a is going back to his country” by a writer, I knew later he is the founder of Al-Kamel publications, named Khalid Al Ma’ali. Juma’a is a very lovely name to my heart. It means Friday.

The two books were biographies. Both about a young man leaving iraq and starting the life again from zero abroad. Sometimes maybe from below zero. Below zero means they got to erase what has been stuck into them from iraq to start again living. To format their brains out from the old retarded system and install a new version of windows so that they can live in harmony with their new society.

Samuel shamon tells us in his book about how he was a focus of attention and suspicion from the security system of the first few countries he tried to start to live in when he first leave iraq. He was interrogated and tortured. Isn’t this a start from below zero?

The story of his living outside iraq was the orchestral work upon which he played the concerto of his memories of life inside iraq. I think that the value of his book lies strongly on his narrative flow of memories of inside iraq. The first page of his book started from the last scene: the day when he reached the US, and finally be close to his dream of visiting Hollywood and starting his film making, in 2004. the next page heralds the start of his journey out from iraq in January 1979. this part contiues till page 195 (the whole Arabic version is a 311 pages book). In page 195 another chapter of his book starts. The concerto of his childhood in Iraq.

The first part of the book was written between 1990 and 2003, while the second part was written in 1989 as a scenario entitled "nostalgia for the English time".

"juma'a is going back to his country" is written by a poet, a modern one. Khalid Al-Maalie is referring to himself by a third person "Juma'a". his book is presented by 60 chapters. Each chapter is of about 5 pages. If I dare to say that Samuel shamon's book is a concerto, then I don't what to say really about Khalid Al-Maalie book. Is it a poetical realistic biography standing at the edge of dreams? Is it a new age music or maqamat? (maqamat is the plural of maqam which means a scale of notes played by traditional Iraqi musical instruments. There are about 100 maqam). Or is it intervened by some Hacha'a rigorously dancing musical pieces? (hacha'a is a dancing musical style in iraq. The word hacha'a came from the verb ihcha'a which means sit a half sit so that you are prepared to jump high, and it is believed that the names is associated with this dancing music because one usually yell "ihcha'a" to the dancing group so that they prepare themselves to the jump together). So was khalid al-maalie's soul playing some primitive hacha'a rhythms from south iraq to let our heart sit a half sit-down before it jumps racing its lyrical poetry? Some of his lines are so realistic to a degree that make you think it is a newspaper report, or a documentary one some Iraqi flavored relationships, till the words start march together, a little by little, to the edges of some kind of musical poetical Sufism which were my preferred lines. Well after all that can we say that Khalid Al-Maalie book is a concerto where the reality is the symphony and the poetry is the solo?

Finally to know a book you must have it and read it. What are unsaid remains floating between the lines. It is in the unsaid that we remain floating, or diving, in. I don't dare to say that I was logically presenting the books to you. I can say I was illogically presenting them to an area in your dreamland hoping that you can dream of what is iraq. And let me not stop talking and present you to those two men.

The two men are in black. shamon is to the right, Al Maalie is in the middle. The picture is taken from a very interesting arabic/english written blog http://imtidad.blogspot.com


Laura said...

What a beautiful post, Sami. I hope I'm able to find translations of these books. Your musings make me want to read them. Thank you.

sami said...

Thank you Laura for your nice words. Laura, Shamon has written his book in English. The english version is unavailable in Iraq. I don't know about Al Maalie book's translation. Thank you.