Friday, July 10, 2009

To Bridge Or Not To Bridge, this is Victoria

Holako made the first bridge in Baghdad from the books he took from its libraries and threw them in Tigris which was colored with ink. Till the start of the 20th century there seem to be no bridge in Baghdad. It seems that bridges remembered the Baghdadies back then of Holako. Before the 20s century people in Baghdad were crossing to the other side of Tigris using Al Quffa, a circular boat, like in the picture above.

At the start of the 20th century Baghdadis started to make boats floating next to each other, the put longitudinal woods over them and the first simple made bridges were made. I wonder how the early Baghdadis back then saw these bridges. They were regarded as unbelievably huge and great. I cannot be sure how they looked in their eyes but this is how they look to our modern eye:

I've seen the bridge and the bridge is long
And they built it high and they built it strong
Strong enough to hold the weight of time
Long enough to leave some of us behind

So when Victoria saw this bridge she thought it is high and strong and she started thinking about suicide for the first 78 pages of the novel entitled by her name and written by Sami Michael that novelist born in Baghdad in a Jewish family to leave Baghdad in the 40s and go to Israel to keep writing his novels and he was the one who translated Najeeb Mahfooth’s novels to Hebrew. You can easily know that he got a degree in psychology from his narration which is full of symbols, psychodynamic symbols. I like how he concentrates on the body language. He would write that Toya put her thumb in her mouth when she saw Rafael, or how the family lit the candles before it is dark at that day when the flood started in Baghdad making the sorrow and fear more intense. The characters have clear fixed traits and each one stands tall as living individual in front of you while you read the novel. They are vivid to a degree that you can imagine what he or she would do when this or that happens. He never forgets to make me laugh or smile at the appropriate time. He is the kind of a novelist that I like, that I hope I can be someday.

So it was 78 pages of Victoria walking along the bridge and thinking about her life and its worth. She would think of suicide for a while then remembers something and the narration takes you in a wave. This is maybe how the bridge looked like in Victoria's eyes back then:

Standing on the bridge looking at the waves
Seen so many jump, never seen one saved
On a distant beach your song can die
On a bitter wind, on a cruel tide

The first 78 pages I just finished is talking about what how the life of Victoria came into her mind while she was planning to throw her body into the mad water as there was a wild wind that day. As she wanted to end her life she remembered her childhood and the words came as water taking us to a house of a Baghdadi Jewish family living in the early years of 20th century. They were a crowded family and their dynamics were so vividly drawn by that expert writer in my mind. He made me even imagine the walls of their big old house. Even the smell. Najeya who prefers to wear her unclean clothes, Azeza and her malice, Izra and his stubborn religiosity and thick beard, and the poor sensitive soul of Victoria among many others.

And the bridge it shines
Oh cold hard iron
Saying come and risk it all
Or die trying

Baghdad got 12 bridges now I think. And she is still not happy with them. They misbehave. That old one, al Sarrafya, which was the longest in the world at its time, is no more carrying the trains with their loud whistles. Al Ahrar (free people) bridge seems trapped between ugly buildings and car crowds, and the others have military check points that made the cars stops in the hot weather and their horns would inter your skull and teach you the concept of headache at its highest tension mixed with hotness.

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away

I was worried as I was reading the novel about the fate of Victoria till I reached the middle of chapter seven, page 78, when she quit her plan to suicide and she aimed to go back home. I decided that I should stop reading now and told you about this magnifisant novel, “Victoria”, written in Hebrew by Sami Michael, translated to Arabic by Raja’a Naqqash.

The words in italic rosy font are the lyrics of elton John's song the Bridge which seems to talk about the Golden Gate Bridge, the most site in the world that witnessed suicides, pictured above as the old Baghdadi bridge in Victoria's eyes.


Anonymous said...

Another wonderful mix of poetry and prose which made me looking for both, the song and the novel


Sami said...

thank you for your encouragement Mohammed. Victoria is availab le in english as i think also.


3eeraqimedic said...

Dear Sami
Reliably brilliant writing
Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing, thanks for recommending.

Khalid from said...

Dear Sami,

Thanks for blogging from beloved Baghdad about some intersting matters.

I enjojed more than any thing the pictures of Baghdad bridges and in particular, the hanging bridge which was opened in 1959.

Blog on Sami,

saminkie said...

Hi 3eeraqimedic, thiank you for your nice words. Thank you for the visit. take care.


saminkie said...

Thank you Khalid for your encouragement.

Sandybelle said...

Dear Sami,

keep going man, very interesting.. whenever i read a post i feel of a different thing.. walla, with no compliment.. stay safe and thanks for your tender..

Hassan said...

Interesting Blogging.....
You made me excited to do 2 things:
1- read the story
2- listen to the Elton John's song
He is my favourite singer , however , I never hear of such a song lol.
Thanks Sami.....

Hassan S. Al-Gharbawi

Sami said...

Thank you Sandybell and Hassan for your nice words and encouragement.

Hassan the song is from the album "the captain and the kid".