Friday, March 26, 2010

Asmer, Me, and Battaween

Samir Nakkash was born in 1938 in Baghdad/ Al Battaween – Iraq. Forced to leave Iraq in 1951 with his family while he was a teenager. Lived in Israel, India, Iran and the UK. During his journey in those places he learned many languages but he kept writing in Arabic.


The novel “Shlomo the Kurdish, Me and the Time” is about the life of a Kurdish Jew born in Sablakh (now called Mahabad) in Iran, and forced to leave it to Baghdad, India, then Israel. I failed to know who the “Me” in the title is. The story of Shlomo is told by his own as if talking to somebody, that somebody may be Sameer Naqqash, who referred to himself in the title of the novel by “Me”.

Well Shlomo is religious and this is so clear from the beginning. That was the first challenge to my love to this novel. The second challenge is that Shlomo is a merchant, and a successful one, the wealthiest in his poor village, still he is crying and waning… talking about that period while waning like a child… well the challenge is harder dear friend…

He is married to a loyal wife named Asmer. We know nothing about Asmer in the novel which didn’t describe her features. Shlomo loved a girl, a very young one. Asmer felt his passion. She went to that girl’s father and talked to the father who accepted to give is daughter as a second wife to Shlomo. Shlomo accepted the second wife happily like usual for a spoiled child... and please allow me to declare that I cannot love nor respect this man… well I will just try to respect…. Ok?

With pages passing by, the girl starts turning into a noisy annoying wife and a mother of a kid. While the second wife was giving birth to the second kid while explosions of the war between the Russians and the Othmans are taking place in Mahabad. You deserve it Shlomo, and Raja’a Nakkash, your novel is annoying… especially that it says nothing about the suffering of the new wife, old wife, and children.. the protagonist Shlomo is at the centre of your lights, is as obese as your 360 pages novel full of egocentricity and selfishness.

If I were you Raja’a Nakkash, I would have neglected Shlomo with his long beard thinking about money, sex and candies, that spoiled child, and told the story of his first wife, Asmer.
I would even chose a lover for Asmer, a secret lover, a young man full of charm and courage and life.

Once Shlomo started to talk about the growing up of his son and the waking up of his desires to play with….. I thought he would say to play with girls, philosophy, art, or something that we like to play with, but he said “moneys”….he even didn’t say money, he said moneys…
The idea of leaving Sablakh was a “sperm in the womb of unknown future” as the writer said. The pregnancy with it would take a road in which reality reached from its unbelievable news and weight of symbols what is equal to myths.

When the Russians invaded they tried to make good relations with the Christians, as brothers of the same religion. Then the Othmans and the Germans came and “liberated” it. The Othmans killed the Christians of Sablakh and ordered the Jews to bury the dead bodies. When the Russians regained the control on Sablakh, they killed the Muslims and ordered the Jews to bury the dead bodies.


Of the important chapters in the novel are the chapters dated to 1941, and to 1951. In 1941, the year of Farhood, in June the Baghdadis were talking about the rumor of Nazi forces entering Baghdad soon. The Iraqi Jews were afraid from this rumor due to the reputation of how the Nazis treat the Jews wherever they go. The non-Jewish Iraqis were “hoping” that the Nazis would come to “rescue” them from the British occupation. Rumors increased about the withdrawal of the British forces and about the entering of German forces. Suddenly new rumors said that the German had withdrawn and the British would come back. At that time, Iraqis attacked the Iraqi Jews and took their possessions from money and gold and other things, and killed a lot of them. Shlomo, during that time was away from his home in a house of a friend. His wife Asmer became afraid about him and wondered if he had been harmed by the terrorists. She went out running in the direction of the house of his friend. She saw men armed with knives. The knives men noticed that this lady is in terror, so she must have been a Jew. They threatened her, she cried “Shlomo!!” they hit her with their knives and she cried again while her holy blood was reaveled. With the third Shlomo cry she fell on the ground and emit no voice, no more.

Shlomo stayed in Baghdad and he started to be a famous merchant. In 1951 the police ordered the Jewish or Iranian origins to leave Baghdad. They didn’t accept that he took his money with him. He must leave at once. And he did.

Al Bataween, where Samir Naqqash the novelist had been born, Shlomo’s family, and the lady who take care of me when I was a child had lived, is nowadays a neglected area while the old houses are very sad in their loneliness and abuse. I hope that comes the day that Shlomo, his sons and daughters, or grandsons and daughters can come to regain their father’s possessions and to live a respectful life where they belong as I hope that I one day meet that lady who took care of me when I was a kid and told me about Jesus.


tracy said...

i love the way you describe Slomo as being a spoiled child with his "candies"...and your wanting to take care of Anwser (sp?) and find her a wonderful sweet.

Hello my friend, Sami. i hope you are well and i sooo wish we could visit in person.
Tea at ten. :)

saminkie said...

Hiii Tracy my friend... Yes please, Tea at ten.. Hope we can meet someday in person and drink tea.. you are such a nice person Tracy. Sending you best wishes all over the distance from "Baghdad" to the US..