Monday, November 28, 2011

Inferiority Hunted

When I am an Eskimo
Waiting at my fishing hole
Adler surfaced and burbled
Things about complexes
I took a complex back to my cold wife
She baked it in her oven
She gave birth to a child
We called him: Alexander the Great.

12th Oct. 2011. Istiklal Cadeci. Lost in translation inside the libraries. No Turkish writer is known to the mind. The artistic covers, the type of papers and the libraries decoration intensifies the feelings of ignorance. When the eyes caught the Latin alphabet they jumped to the conclusion that all book were in English, to be shocked later that most, if not all, were in Turkish. Forgotten was Turkey's use of Latin alphabet. The mission, the boring mission, was to differentiate the name of the writer from the title of the book. It was easy. The titles were not understood, while the authors' names were more close to the heart especially with their Easterners' sounds. And finally the eye falls on a known name. Orhan Pamuk. Orhan Pamuk? "I know that!!" A smile force itself into the silly face.
Most of Orhan Pamuk's novels were there. Among them are the translated ones. "Snow" was chosen because it is translated to English and its back cover tells about a suicide epidemic in an isolated rural area in Turkey. That goes well with the …. with the…. mood? No, not with the mood but…. with something… anyway.
For about a month, different English dictionaries were used: the Oxford, the Penguin, and Al-Sakhar electronic bilingual Arabic-English dictionary. The final conclusion was that not only Turkish language is covered by the cloud of ignorance but also, the English!
The about 400 pages novel deals with the epidemic of suicide in, let us say, 20 pages. About 5 per cent. A post about that part might follow in the future since this novel will not be forgotten easily. Between the events, between the lines, there was the description of the village of Kars, and of its people and their life. Rediscovering the self in Orhan Pamuk's words. Rediscovering the self, under the lights that somebody sheds for you at your dim part, is not always an easy-going experience.

When I was a shrilled-voiced Kurd
In front of Notre-Dame de Paris
My melody was shy and naïve
But when Quasimodo added percussion

La Esmeralda danced
The crowd started to love it
They filled our hats with shillings.

While there was a bloody coup d'état, Orhan Pamuk didn't forget to shed light on people's psyche. First, the reader was little annoyed by the writer's tendency towards delaying the description of the bloody killing for the sake of describing, what was called by the reader as, "silly things", by then. After sometime, the reader finally decided: even at war, our most deep instincts and drives, master us. Wouldn't it be more close to the truth to state: sometimes, our deep drives, come to the surface, especially at the time of war?
When it come to the surface, like a fish for an Eskimo fishing through a hole in the ice, it is better to be hunted, and quickly.

For how long that shrilled-voiced young Kurd dream will stay in the mind? That young Kurd who saw once, before four years from the date of his speech, a Western woman who came for tourism in his village, to visit the Armenian Church. He, who saw that Western woman, for the very few seconds that were enough for her to go down the tourist's bus, kept dreaming about her. He remembers the details. He says: "She was wearing a blue dress that revealed her shoulders." P.288 In the dream, which is already being forgotten to a degree by the reader's "resistance" curtain, he was in front of a screen. Big screen. That same woman was on the screen. He joined her there. She liked him. She even passed her hands kindly and gently upon his cheeks (was it upon his hair? The reader cannot remember exactly). He felt so happy. But then he discovered that he was a child, in that scene, and that she passed her hands, kindly, on him, just because he was a child.

I can still remember how I was annoyed when the adults belittle me. Just before few weeks I was in a visit to my parents, and now that I am 33, I am still in rage when there is a tiny allusion for my "weaknesses" or "immaturity". I even had imagined threatening allusions in love-driven innocent approaches. And like it is the case for the shrilled voice Kurd, the West is another opponent, for the child inside of me.

I think I should read Alfred Adler.

Thanks Orhan Pamuk for such a work. A work that is intermingled inside the psyche of the reader shedding light on the dim corners. Such a rare work. Such a rare effect.

The Man who Stares at Flies

Another morning. Still functioning in the waiting mode. Waiting the answer to my job application. The coffee types in Iraq are not the same to those in Algeria. I miss Algeria. Is that evident?

Putting the coffee down I held the novel: The Men who Stare at Goats. I spent the last night with my dictionary reading it. It is so funny. But, reading in the morning is more difficult since, the weather is warm, and the flies are active.

I put the novel down. Put a drop of my coffee on the cover and ordered one of the flies with few clear words: Land, Drink, Coffee. And you know what? She obeyed!!!

To confirm my abilities I ordered again: Enough, Leave!!!

She subdued quitely and sadly.

I think I got super psychic powers.

My neighbour brought me broccoli. I fried the broccoli and grilled an eggplant. I enjoyed the rest of the day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday's Rendez-vous

It was another Friday in Al-Mada Publication House in Al-Mutanabbee Street.

A middle aged woman with short hair, beautiful face with no makeup, comfortable clothes that doesn't reveal her body, came and distributed a short-story collection to us. The cover was a colored painting resembling Van Gogh paintings signed by the name: Hayat (=literally this female name can be translated to: Life). The author of the short-story collection is named: Safira Jameel Hafudh (Safira is a female name that can be translated to: Unveiled). I merely had the ability to thank that lady with a faint smile surprised by the initiative, since I never had received such a beautiful colorful present, from a lady, that I didn't know, and that had such a beautiful name.

When the conference had started that morning in Al-Mada Institute in Al-Mutanabbee Street, a conference about the deceased pioneer Iraqi painter: Hafudh Al-Duroobi, an old woman with cotton-white hair, had surmounted the platform. The old man sitting next to me, who had sat next to me without any word, just a glimpse of a tired sight, talked to me without any introduction saying with a smile: Son! That is Safira Jameel Hafudh.

My mouth and eyes opened and I swayed my head from the north to the west, scanning for a better view of the lady in the platform, avoiding the heads of the people sitting in front of me, since we were sitting little far in the back. Back with my eyes opened to send a look at the old man sitting next to me I was asking myself: How did he know that I didn't know who is Safira Jameel Hafudh? Did he even know that I identified her wrongly in that middle-aged woman who distributed the book by her hands?

I was looking at him in that same fraction of the second in which he sensed my look and started to nod his head just slightly up & down while his eyes were fixed at Safira as if answering me: I know son, you didn't know who is who, you are trying to discover your ancestors, good for you.

Safira Jameel Hafudh had started talking telling us about Hafudh Al-Duroobi coming back from Europe to Iraq and wondering what to do with his degree in painting in this land. The idea was to open a studio for painting in Baghdad University (there was still no College of Beaux-Art in the middle of the 20th century in Iraq). They gave him a bath (or a W.C. I am not sure) that seems to be not strongly needed. He started the work by his own hands on that bath to change it to a studio. Few enthusiastic students joined him; most of them became later his students, and known artists (like Hayat, Safeera's sister, whose painting was on the cover of our present).

Another student of Hafudh Al-Duroobi, named Khaldoon Al Bassam, attended the platform and told us about his memories in that studio. He told us that the company of the students and their mentor was wonderful and that even the cleaner who was in charge of the studio started painting with them.

Another student named, Sami Al-Ruba'ai, told us some lovable personal details like about the type of cigarettes their mentor was smoking, it was called THREE FIVE. He told us laughing that he was, sometimes, in charge of preparing the Mezzah (Mezzah is the different types of salad that is eaten by the Easterners when they drink Alcoholic beverages) for the company.

Thanks again for Al-Mada House for these activities which introduce my ancestors to me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Journey (Passing Through Turkey)

"The silence of the snow, thought the man sitting just behind the bus-driver. If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called what he felt inside him "the silence of the snow". P.3

Accompanied me in my travelling seat. Accompanied me in my bed while diseased. For more than 20 days, I was walking like an Arabic ant in this foreign language 436 snowy mountain of words, my dictionary was my provision. I remember that sometimes I felt bored from it, and asked it to let me free, but now that I am about to end it, I am already missing it. Snow is such a non-forgettable novel.

"He was more at peace than he ever had been before." P.312

I was feeling strange about Ka's ability to feel peace and his ability to write poems in the middle of that ridiculous coup d'état and the killing that struck out between the PKK, Islamists, Communists, Kemalists (pro-Kemal Ataturk fighters), and the military of the Turkish government, each killing the other, all are enemies to each others, while Ka is feeling at peace and is in love with Ipek and is writing a poems collection.

"Kadife will appear on the stage wearing a headscarf. Then, in defiance of the ludicrous customs that have given rise to the blood feud, she'll bare her head for all to see." P.314

Standing in that crossroad between the west and the east, standing in Turkey I imagine Orhan Pamuk trying to tell us through his novel that we, the Easterners, are:

1. Theatrical,
2. Violent,
3. Concentrating on the wrong detail of trivial things.

Putting those characteristic in an example I would say: we, the Easterners, can react theatrically violent to the degree of killing in the sake of silly trivial superficial causes. I might be wrong but that was the conclusion I found myself in.

"I don't want to turn myself into a target for the Islamists. When they see her bare her head, those students will think I'm the atheist who arranged the performance. And even if I can manage to escape to Germany, they'll track me down- I'll be walking down a street late one night and someone will shoot me." P.315

An Iraqi poet living in Tunis said after an Islamist Political Party won the elections in Tunis that: "fear from the Islamists is permissible according to the Sharia." Since last Saturday and we are in a holyday in Iraq which will continue till next Sunday. This also means that we have no journals during those days. I fell nostalgic to Algerian journals that appear in the market everyday even at Fridays. A used the internet to read some of the Algerian journals and found Dilem cartooning about Tunis election results in Liberte:

"… in a brutal country like ours, where human life is "cheap", it's stupid to destroy yourself for the sake of your beliefs. Beliefs? High ideals? Only people in rich countries can enjoy such luxuries." P. 320

Kadhim Jihad was asked one day: "if one would ask, how far is the present of Iraq, or of Arabs, from the present of this city you are living in (Paris)?"
He answered a long answer which can be summarized by that he believes in diversity and does not believe in the accumulative classification of cultures and he gave the following direct sentences: "I don't believe that the French culture is richer than the Arabic culture, at least on the aspect of fiction in literature." He admitted later that in the west there are huge advances in the analytic fields, like philosophy, humanistic specialties, or literature criticism but still, the Arabic literature according to him is not that behind.

He added that the difference is clear in the systems of living and the political dealing with each other. He added finally that in the west: "... The human is not anymore fearful about his self when he say a protesting contradictory opinion. This is the difference, it is the ability to talk and to express your ideas and to try to change without risking the life of the person, this is the essential difference, and this can be summarized in one word: democracy."
I got the last chapter unfinished. I am feeling like I am having a treasure. I will read it and try to sleep. I will dream about democracy.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Thawra (=Revolution), now Sadr, City

Was an agricultural territory belonging to Al-Attar family (an old Baghdadi family.) There were many swamps there and many illegal houses built from simple materials that don't shelter from coldness in winter nor hotness in summer. Those illegal lodgments were belonging to those who ran away from the feudalism in the south. They prefer to be near Baghdad to work in this big city. That was when Iraq was a kingdom. At the start of the Republican era of Iraq, Abdul-Kareem Kasim had ordered to build houses in that land and to put them into the possession of its inhabitants.
"I will put an end to shanties." said Abdul-Kareem Kasim.

The ministry of municipalities, ministered by then (1959) by the first Arab female minister Dr. Nazeeha Al-Dulaimy, was the ministry which planned and execute the plan.

In 1960, the building started. The Army canal was its west boundary. It lies to the east of Baghdad and thus why Baghdadis used to name those people living in it as Shroogies (Easterners). It was belonging administratively to Al-A'athameya, and was divided into many quarters: Seville, The Kurds (majority of Kurds lived there), and Jameela (after Jameela Bou Herd the Algerian female fighter who visited Iraq and asked Abdul-Kareem Karsim who was renting a simple house for his own lodgment by then why he don't have his own lodgment so he took her to this city and told her that he will manage to have his own lodgment when those people can have theirs, and since then that particular place was named Jameela).

The name of this big city was at first, Al-Thaora (=The Revolution). It was named by Abdul-Kareem Kasim himself who was loved to a great degree and if you use your attention you will find that many of the newborns in Iraq between 1958 and 1963 were named Kareem for males and Kareema for females.

When Abdul-Salam Aarif succeeded in his coup d'état against Abdul-Kareem Kasim he changed the city name to Al-Rafidain (the two rivers, referring to Mesopotamia).
When Saddam came to the regime the city name was changed to Saddam's city.
After 2003 the city started to be named Al-Sadr city.

The city surface area is about 30 km cubic. Its population is approximately 3 million living in 144 cubic meter houses. Some of those houses were divided into two when the family enlarged (e.g. after the marriage of the elder son) to two 72 cubic meter houses. Some of the original 144 cubic meter houses lodge 3 to 4 families.

Dr. Muthaffa As'ad

Opened his private clinic at 1963 and was taking 250 Fils for a patient (A Dinar contains 1000 Fils). Dr. Muthafar specified a day in the week in which he saw patients for free. He was much loved and respected and till now the crossroad where his private clinic was is named Muthafar's Square.

Mreadi Market

Mreadi was born at 1930 in Al-Umara. He was from Al-Fartous family. He volunterred in the Iraqi army and participated in the 1948 war in Palestine. After retiring from the army he started to sell vegetables and fruits (greengrocery) then had a kiosk selling nuts and gasious fluids.

The lovable book contains valuable information about the history of sport and art in the city too. Contains some poems written on the city. It is a book that has no reference to the publication house, with bad quality of paper and pictures, sill it has in its back cover the number of registration of the book in "Documents and Books House" in Baghdad in 2008. Much more important it contains the love to this city which is easily felt with every single line Hasan Abdul-Aba Al-Waheali wrote.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The forgetful Misconi and our heritage

Al-Mada newspaper supplements were heartily missed. From Algeria there was a non-humanized possibility of reading them PDFed. In their paper-form, non-electrified (I live most of my days without electricity using chargeable lights), smelled and humanized goes the reading of the Thursday supplement, Iraqis, from the Blazing Era, issue no. 2290 entitled: "Yusuf Misconi".

A friend of him asked him to help him marry that girl. Yusuf Misconi agreed to help. He went to talk to the girl's family about his friend intensions. He saw the girl. He forgot that he was supposed to talk about his friend's intensions. Instead, he asked for the girl's hand for himself.

From his wife, he got seven sons and a girl. From his sons there are now the doctor and the astrologist among other scientists. His house was open weekly for a cultural meeting. He was the translator of one of Dorothy McKay books about Iraqi old cities. He translated other books and wrote some like: "The Aramic and Western Melodies and Recitations in the Eastern Arabic Churchs" Published in Beirout 1965, and "Quhramanat El-Muqtadir" about that historical woman. He got some other works in history, literature and linguistics. He wrote some books with Mostafa Jawad (especially in Linguistics).

In the left, Misconi reading from a book with the cover picturing A'nistas Mari Krimli

An article by Dr. Ali Kamal (psychiatrist) about his personal memories with Misconi

Misconi pictured with Massinon, the french orientalist, when he visited Baghdad

Misconi and his family with my lighter's light

Misconi and his wife in the last page of the suppliment

Back to Al-Mutanabbee Street

For the first Friday since more than a year a visit to Al-Mutanabbe Street was feasible. The aim yas specifically to attend the meeting held in Al-Mada Library House to discuss the works Yousuf (=Josef) Ya'akoob (=Jacob) Miskouni had left us. Salim Al-Alousi was talking about his personal memories with Yosuf Yaqoub Miskouni. He told us about Miskouni's interest in Henry Field's works in Iraq and the opening of the Iraqi museum by Miss Bell.

Salim Al-Alousi lecturing in Al-Mada House about Miskouni

Other lecturers told us about Shamoon Al-Safa school in Mosul which was attended by Miskouni, a school that gave Iraq many of the pioneers in different specializations.
We were told about Miskouni being an orphan early in his life and coming to Baghdad to accomplish studies and his lifelong friendship with Mustafa Jawad and Georges Awwad, and about being a student to father A'nstas Mari Alkrmli.

Tariq Harb lecturing in Al Mada-House about Miskouni

Tariq Harb came. He told us about the love of Yosuf Ya'aqob Miskouni to his last name Miskouni which is very old in history back to the Babylonian era and means in Chaldean language: The Poor. Being a judge, Tarik Harb told us that one of the Miskouni family had taught them in the university: "The History of Law".
Taking my influenza and Snow with me I went back home.

On my way home I went to buy vegetables and fruits. Eating an orange before lunch gave me some energy to make a quick lunch. Eating another orange after lunch encouraged me to write this. I may make some coffee and then take Paracetamol and Allermine and go to sleep so early today. Visiting old Baghdad, reading few papers of Snow, knowing about Miskouni, taking Allermine after drinking a coffee, seems so relaxing. Hope I will remember my dream tomorrow morning when I wake up.

Dora, Dona Maar, La mer Méditerranée

I have entered Iraq exactly before 20 days. No single day I was free. Cleaning lodgment and winter clothes, dealing with water and electricity shortage, travelling back and forth to Karbala to arrange my new job application's papers, and going to that "poop" department for the sake of my family who still abroad since years.

My "TO DO" list also contained some pleasure activities classified as duties: visiting a family member or a friend, or reading a novel.

Yesterday, I came back from Karbala after giving that "Competence Lecture" that I must succeed at to continue my application for the new job. It was about Conversion Disorder and especially about the development of the concept with references to Anna O, and the case of Dora. Before the lecture was to start I was advised by a friend who loves and respects me to not use my surname when introducing myself and to use instead my tripartite name (my name followed by the name of my father followed by the name of my paternal grandfather). I felt estranged but thankful to my friend for reminding me of that. The second thing that shocked me was when I ended my lecture, a long beard professor asked me in a tone that I felt as if blaming: "Do you read Koran?"

I answered "Yes!" He said: "Read some". From the waiting that followed I knew that I was supposed to read some. So I said just to be sure: "Now? Here?" I got the sense that that question was entitled to me especially. But when he pointed to a nearby Koran and said: "Open that Koran and chose from it". The idea of the presence of a Koran in the lecturer's table told me that that question was entitled to all who came to pass this test. I said to myself that they might want to hear how I can spell Arabic letters, or if I have an extremist view against Koran, and our culture. So I was about to pick the Koran when somebody said: "Just read us something from your memory". Another man said: "Yes please just chose a verse from your memory and read it to us". I put the Koran back and started reading that verse that says there is only one God, and he was not born, nor will give birth to anybody.

I went back home. Turned off my mobile phone and had a dinner. At 8 P.M. I went to bed and fall into deep long sleep. I woke up before two hours (8 A.M.). I have influenza. The skies are gray. I am thinking about my mom. Next to my pillow lies "Snow", and my hand writing of a part of it from page 269:
"I'm remembering how we were standing at the window one winter night, looking out at the snow, and she ran her hands through my hair."

I headed to the kitchen and found that I have no more coffee. I headed to the hall and found Dona Maar beautiful face. They say that this face is supposed to be sad. I don't find it sad at all. I went after some sneezing to clear my nose. I felt so relaxed and at home. I went back to Dona Maar. I thought of my mom. She got a beautiful face like a fruit, a pomegranate or a pear or both. I wondered whether I was dreaming about my mom, or about the Mediterranean sea. My eyes keep relaxing on contemplating Dona Maar.

I will rip my TO DO list that says that I must have a bath, wash clothes, clean lodgment, and so on. After writing this I will still have the ability to head to Al-Mutanabbee street.