Wednesday, November 12, 2008

By the Rivers of Babylone

It is a novel about a male gynecologist who had a severe mental illness after aiding to terminate an illegal pregnancy under threatening. Sounds silly? But wait, Khalid Kishtainy is always choosing an indirect way to tell us many other things in one blow. Khalid Kishtainy's essays in Al Sharq Al Awsat (=Middle East) newspaper were my favorite after I discovered that newspaper as a special one among the 200 newspapers which entered Baghdad after 2003 with their vivid colors and attractive images.

His articles were brief but with multiple wise wide brush blows on those paintings. Paintings, from which, you can smell old Baghdad. Articles that you can live Ayam El Khair (=The Good Days) again with. Ayam El Khair is a radio weekly episode that lasts 5 to 10 minutes in Al Iraq Al Hurr (=Free Iraq) radio channel. It is an Iraqi radio channel that belongs to the Iraqi communist party, and was banned before 2003. When I was preparing for my first year exam in 2005, his program did give me hope to continue in spite of the deteriorating situation back then in Baghdad. Hearing his harsh alto voice, talking quietly about the good days of Baghdad, were one of the causes why I stayed believing in Baghdad.

So what about this gynecologist?

He is an Iraqi Jew. And Ooops the novel is not silly anymore! The novel is about his life in the 40s and the 50s in Iraq and then Israel. He developed mental illness after aborting a pregnant under the threat of her brothers to do so. The novel is now attracting me more and more! Her brothers wanted him to kill her. He said he did. He showed them the dead baby. They asked him to bury the woman (their sister), whom they call a sinner. She was not married and she became pregnant after a love story.

The gynecologist, Abdul Salam, developed a mental illness. His wife took him to Al Kifl in Babylon where the prophet Thu Il Kifl (=Ezekiel) grave is. Babylon in the novel? I adore it.

They had visited the old Babylon by their way of return to Baghdad.

The doctor's condition improved a little to deteriorate before they enter Baghdad. At the borders of Baghdad they saw people making a rally and shouting "death to the Zionists, death to the Jews, and death to all Jews".
At Baghdad he was taken to Jacky Shabi Abboud, the first psychiatrist in Iraq, and then admitted to Al Shamaya Hospital (=al rashad hospital). Al Shamaya is there too? God I love this novel. Inpatients there thought that he was a spy working for the Zionist and would document their secrets to Israel. They start to through trash on him. His wife was advised to take him out. She took him out and went to the marches, to pass to Iran illegally, and then to Israel.

In Israel the story continues but I won't tell you how.

I didn't tell you about Hassoon and Samera, nor about Baghdad college and Romeo and Juliet. To leave you with a little hope that you read the novel.

The novel contains brilliant descriptions to Iraq in the 40s and 50s. Contents of a typical Baghdad house, peoples' costumes, peoples' favorable themes to talk about, Baghdadi proverbs, Songs, Al Rasheed street, Al Sadoon street, Al Sufafeer market, King Faisal's square, Ezekiel's grave, Ezra's grave, Babylon, and many other things.
I read the novel while I was going to my job. In the minibus. It never made me feel tired from reading. It is a very clever brilliant novel. Thank you Khaled Kishtainy.

You can find in this link an article about the novel:

and Kaled Al kishtainy blog title is


tracy said...

Hello Dr. Sami,
i simply m u s t read this novel, it sounds brilliant! Thank you so much for the introduction. It sounds like just my kind of read, as i love books that have to do with medicine, the Middle East, Judahism and Mental, it seems to cover all four, what more could i ask for...? Except a visit from you...!
Best always, your friend, tracy

saminkie said...

Hi Tracy my friend. Thank you for this wonderful visit. I hope one day we can visit each other. Till then let us drink Tea together....

take care my friend, sami

tracy said...

Dear Sami,
i ordered this book yesterday and oops, i forgot to mention that Islam, and of course, many other things interest me as well. Today we shall drink tea at that table around the world...and in my dreams, we all meet together :)

saminkie said...

Dear Tracy, if we ever have the english version in Iraq i would have sent to you my friend. Unfortunately we don't have it. Anyway hope you will have it soon between your hands. The novel will be lucky to be between your hands. It was a nice tea today. i will have another one my friend Tracy :)

Susannah T said...

More than four years on, I have just Tweeted (24 Feb 2013) a link to this great review of a book I feel has received too little publicity.

saminkie said...

Thanks for your care Sussana T and for your comment.