Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Psychiatrist in "A House Near Tigris River"

Chapter Five

“This doctor you send is to is a mad man! He needs somebody to treat him!” p. 33

Sahera’s evidence for the madness of the psychiatrist was his habit of holding that unlit cigarette and acting as if it is lit, i.e. taking a breath in, and acting as if getting rid of the tobacco ash in an ashtray. She also seemed annoyed because he didn’t let her speak. He just put her out, then blame her for the fire that Saeed had caused, then asking her why she is acting as if she is Saeed’s mother. All the interview had raised some annoying feelings inside Sahera… but that was important… isn’t it?

The writer had wrote the scene of the fire set by Saeed in the psychiatrist’s desk in a caricature way by exaggeration to prove, or provide, the “funny” character of psychiatrists and the fate they deserve: “setting fire in their papers, i.e., in their theories, in their pseudoscience” as may the writer wanted to say as I think.

Chapter 6

“from among the dark shadows that are stuck to the room’s ceiling, the mad doctor’s face reared to her, with his shining bald, his glasses, and his unlit cigarette.” P.41

When he appeared to her while she was sleeping at her bed at night, he offered her more time to speak and to lie on the couch… so he used the couch, with some more time, and that was Saheera’s dream. So the writers said indirectly that people dream that their psychiatrists are giving more time and using the couch… i.e. being more psychologically oriented than biologically…

The psychiatrist unlit cigarette might be a symbol to an ineffective tool (cigarette that gives no smoke= ineffective cigarette)… and more worse, even if that tool (cigarette= drug=pharmacology) would work, it will do bad things more than good (cigarette smoke—cancer//// pharmacology--- dependence or dulling of the mind)… so that’s maybe how the psychiatric “biological” tools is seen in this novel.

In Chapter 20, and the novel was about to end the psychiatrist had lied on his couch and talked to the new patient about his worries, then he brought all the patient’s files and pissed on them, then set fire on them… that was little naïve from the writer but still the symbol is shouting that the psychiatrist, in the writer’s mind, is not respecting the patients, is helpless, and nihilistic.

The psychiatrist in the Mahdi Esa Alsaqr novel is only a secondary character to help the main characters Saeed and Sahera to tell their complicated story with the Iraq-Iran eight years war, cadavers, poverty, and inhumanity. I wondered how psychiatry in such a circumstances be practiced. Insomnia can be attributed to the hot weather and lack of electricity leading to no air cooling and darkness. No enough food would lead to weight loss, and hence fatigability, headache, and poor concentration. War is not interesting off course, so loss of interest in life (=war)…. And many deaths in family and neighborhoods and friends… so could one diagnose depression? Especially when not psychotic? The DSM-IV had regarded bereavement as an exclusion from the diagnosis of depression… but what about war and its consequences?

The novel is written in Baghdad from 7th May 1991 to 5th January 1992…. Such times… Yeah … Such times… I got empathetic with the writer and his protagonists in spite of everything… the novel end and “…. and the lights of fires are illuminating the skies of the city!”…
Now that the fires are getting weaker and weaker, what would be the role of mental health in this city, and how would it be perceived by Saheera, Saeed, and Alsqr?


Touta said...

nice post,
i like how you analyse books so deeply with your own thoughts.

and i don't think the fires of the minds ever get weaker and weaker...

saminkie said...

Thank you for the encouragment Touta. In Iraq we got a psychiatrist named Dr Hussein Sarmak Hassan who usually psychoanalyse novels... his latest book is called "Al Rikabi the Godfather of the Cunning Subconsious" and it is about Abdul Khaliq Al Rikabi latest novel "The Book of Eternity" among other things...

Fires of the minds... yes you maybe right... But I meant the fires of Iraq... the Fires of the wars... Hope that our memory would look at it in a more healthy way.

Touta said...

thanks for the book name and author, maybe one day i'll find it and read it.

as for fire of war...i know you meant that, but i hoped it can also mean fires of the mind.
and even though we have fires of war burning for years, fire is something that cleans, and sterilises, it is also something powerful, and angry, and you are right, one day our minds will see this all in a different way.

saminkie said...

Yes Touta you are right. You reminded also that "Fire" is hole in some religions and that we had just passed Newroz, that day that celebrates the spring with Fire and that intersting myth about it.

The book can be found easily in Baghdad/ Al Mutanbbie Street/ either in Al Mada House or in that famous library almost in front of it but I always forgot their name. A well known library that I had one day found Abdul Khaliq Al Riqabi himself buying books from and since then I visit it everytime I am there :)