Monday, June 25, 2012

Dictatorship from a Cherry Point of View

I am hearing now Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6. I want to write about that novel, Herztier. Herztier, as it is entitled originally in German, "The Land of Green Plums" as it is entitled in its English version. Its Arabic version is entitled: "The Animal of the Heart". Herta Muller said that the novel was written "in memory of my Romanian friends who were killed under Ceaucescu regime."
"And when all are asleep, the winds sleep in the trees." P.42

I took the Arabic version with me to my worksite and I had no white empty paper to write the notes but the last edition of "Tatoo", a monthly Iraqi newspaper specialized in art.
Before I went to the room that I share with two other companions I bought cherry. I didn't know that the word cherry will repeat itself so much in the novel. I might have a faint unconscious allure to a link to the word: "plum". I even had called Herta once, in a day dream: "my plum".
"Dead people don't need the barber, don't need to cut their nails, and don't lose buttons." P15

Cutting the hair is a repetitive happening in the novel. Losing bottoms too. As if the protagonists as astonished that their bodies are still, having some kind of life, in it. In page 164 of the Arabic edition the writer wrote: "It would be nice if love grows like grass."
The protagonist is the only unnamed person in the novel. We know early in the novel that she is a female. Her father was a soldier in SS. He is proud of his history. After the suicide of a student, the protagonist found three men (Edgar, Kurt, and George) interested to know more about what happened. They had a secret place where they hide books. They write poetry. The protagonist started to spend time with them. All the four were eager to leave Romania. The protagonist did leave Romania to Germany in page 160 in the Arabic edition. She kept writing about her memory. The most memory that was stuck in my mind was how the Chief Bele asked her to took her clothes off and then to sing a national anthem. 

The protagonist wrote about her memory of the days that comes after the suicide of Lola when they were clapping the hands after the head of the school told them that Lola's deed was a shame and that she would be not regarded anymore worthy to be as a part of the communist party. The clapping started to wane after few seconds but few students kept applauding. Those who stopped thought that they should start again clapping so that the sound will rise again and that what did happen.

I remembered when I was reading those lines how we, as students in school, were under the obligation of clapping our hands furiously every time the name of Saddam Hussein is mentioned. I remembered Nasif Falaq novel "Khidr-Qad and the Olive-colored Era".   

I am still hearing Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 and it is getting little… a little noisy.
I will keep the volume high while just mentioning that long Iranian film named "Taste of Cherry". The protagonist was trying to find somebody helping him in his suicide. He found that old man at last who he, himself, had tried to suicide before. The old man told him the story and how it was hard to tie a robe on a tree so he decided to climb it and when he was there, in the tree, trying to tie the robe so that he can suicide, his hand catched, by accident a cherry. 

He ate one. Then two. Then three. Then children came and asked him to shake the tree for them. And that was enough for him to quit his plan. When his wife woke up that morning she was surprised with a dish full of cherries.
These are the kind of stories that you can expect from area like, Iraq, Iran, and Romania.   
It was 20 minutes since I have started hearing Tchaikovsky's symphony no. 6, and now the second part had started. It is an allegro. One of the most beautiful melodies that I have ever heard. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Spellbound's Inferiority

I have translated the title of the novel in a previous post as "The Passion Bearer" but while contemplating the edition I found that Al-Mada publication Company had already translated the title to "The Spellbound".

 His souvenirs from the last war were multiple small shells of a military-airplane bomb resting inside his skull that left him with frightening auditory hallucinations. That was enough for his family (mother, brother Ismail, and sister Zainab) to isolate him more than before, he, the lover of books, the detester of violence, who was called sarcastically by his brother Ismail as: Gandhi. His mother fells disgusted when find him close to his sister talking about literature. He used to talk to his sister about the books he read and advice her about reading them. His mother allured that she thinks he is a homosexual when one day she found him talking to his sister Zainab.

The protagonist is unnamed in the novel. His only friend, the psychiatrist, whose father had suicide, carries the name: Nadir Salih, an Arabic name that can be literally translated to English into: "Rare Good".

 Our protagonist is not only unnamed but his small family had bribed a lawyer and edited a death-certificate for him, so that they can take his few meters of land, left to him by his dead father, in the south of Iraq.
His friend, the psychiatrist, failed to offer him, and his auditory hallucinations, but a crazy night of binge drinking of alcohol with the strange sexually-provocative disinhibited wife of the psychiatrist who is named Niran (can be translated literally into: "Fires"), and a reckless car driving that ended in a fatal car accident.
After that accident the last chapter started and it is written by the protagonist's sister, Zainab. The chapter is actually a letter written to our protagonist reminding him, thankfully, of the time that he spent with her (his sister) and his advices. She mentions, for example, that day when he advised her to read "Les Yeux D'Elsa" by Aragon, who wrote this poem to his wife, and Zainab mentions her difficult life with her brute husband, the smuggler. She seemed to regret her marriage to that smuggler who played the role of the manhood in the eyes of her mother and brother Ismail against our protagonist's peace-loving "femininity". Zainab tells about her longing to her brother and she questions if he still.. exists!
 It is a novel about the struggle of the peace-lover, art-lover, humanistic person, in an ignorant brute society where manhood is equalized with aggression and savagery. Politeness and calmness would be seen as cowardice, and any male who would not be a beast would be regarded as a homosexual, even by his brother, or more strangely, his mother, while the father, as in another novel by Ahmed Khalaf, is absent, or dead, or even… committed suicide.

Author: Ahmad Khalaf
Title: The Spellbound
Al-Mada P.C.
First Edition: 2005
Copyright to Al- Mada