What I have learned from reading a dossier about Najeeb Mahfouz is that he used to say: "I have to work now" when he wants to spend time alone with his-self. With his-self, there were almost always papers, to read, or to write. But sometimes, the logic says, there were no papers, yet still, he was working.
The privacy is something not that respected in our part of the world. I remember Orhan Pamuk's novel "Snow" when the journalist Ka who came from Frankfort, found it shocking how women lack privacy in that Turkish village, even when they had committed suicide.
Fawzi Kareem is an Iraqi poet writing a weekly column in Al-Mada Newspaper, my favorite newspaper. His column is entitled: "From the Ivory Tower". He lives in Europe. He wrote one of the most beautiful integrated books about classical European music. The poly-harmonic European classical music didn't appeal to our side of the earth. Our Arabic music is mono-harmonic, simple, and repetitive. Does this mean that we don't like diversity? Does this mean that we fear from strangers?
Let us go back to Fawzi Kareem and his Ivory Tower in which he wrote about how one of the paintings of John Martin entered to the unconscious of Berlioz as Berlioz relate his dream in his diary. Or about Ezra Pound letters to his parents. Or why does Goya was the subject of many films and operas. Of course you must imagine an Iraqi, a simple Iraqi living in contemporary Iraq with all its problems reading this in a bus, a café, or late in the evening after his siesta sitting with a cup of tea in his humble lodgment. Does that seem satirical?
Fawzi Kareem had visited Iraq lately and started writing from inside, from within. "Lord had deposited me a moon in Baghdad" is the title of his articles written from within and today was article no. 3. In today article he wrote about how talking about explosions is matter discussed as a daily routine while also discussing what to eat as a lunch that same day. The electricity problem is that background of course. I will go back to "Lord had deposited me a moon in Baghdad part 1" and share with you the following lines:
"We must not trust our talent, our conscious, our culture, our spiritual upbringing. How can we trust, we that were born and grown up and started writing in a tunnel of an era that is very dim, very delusional, and very harsh in crushing the human individualism. The despotic state wants to define the "good citizen" as it likes. The despotic state doesn't want a single human being to enjoy his individualism. The poet comes out form this individualism"
Latifa Al-Dulaimi had written one of those past days about the opening of the first school in Basra in 1904-1909. She wrote about that manager whose name was given later to the school who was so happy at the day of its opening which had been postponed for some time back then. He brought 2000 nightingales in cages on that same day of the opening and set them free from the school's square. They distributed on the nearby orchards. She compares that way of celebrating an event with today's Iraqi methods of celebrating important events.
Daizi Al-Ameer used to write about daily trivial things in lovable short stories. I remember reading for her a story about packing a bag for travelling and the ideas that came in the mind at that particular time. In today's issue of Al-Mada Newspaper a writer named: Ali Hassan Fawaz wrote about her, or more correctly, about forgetting her, because she is really forgotten. He questions why did we forget her, and her writings, she, the Iraqi lady who wrote since the 60s of the previous century. He thinks that we forgot her because we are taken by ideologies. Trivial human things are not our business. He said in a line that I most like that: "the old overcoat had stopped emitting birds and fairies."
He had put the word overcoat between brackets, in an allusion to Gogol's short story from which, Dostoevsky claimed once, that all the Russian short stories, and their writers, came.
(" Are you aware who you're talking to? Do you realize who is standing before you? I'm asking you a question: do you hear me?" at this point he stamped his foot, and raised his voice to such a pitch that anyone, not only Akaky Akakievich, would have been quite terrified. Akaky Akakievich was paralyzed with terror, and lurched backwards, shaking from head to toe, quite unable to remain on his feet: if two attendants had not run up at that point and supported him he would have fallen flat on his face. He was carried out almost unconscious. The important personage, delighted with the effect of his words, which had surpassed his expectations, and quite intoxicated with the thought that his word alone could brighten a person out of his senses. Gave his friend a sideway look to see how this was being received and noted not without gratification that his friend was in a most precarious state and was even beginning himself to show signs of fear.")
Akaky Akakievich just came to this important personage to ask him to help him find his lost overcoat in the cold winter of St. Petersburg. Akaky Akakievich is an example of an individual in front of … in front of…. what? … the harsh superego?...
He told me that I should read Dostoevsky. He repeated that few times. Today, he showed me a book about "Psychoanalysis of Literature" and as I opened it I read Freud quoted about Dostoevsky's father being killed, and about one of Dostoevsky's stories "The Brothers Karamazov" when one of the brothers kill their father. Freud wrote about Dostoevsky's fainting attacks (epilepsy?).
Going back to a reminder of the Russian literature had fitted-in in these cold days here in Baghdad. Gogol's overcoat reminded me of the 90s of the previous century when I was growing upward, and my family didn't have the money to buy me a new trousers each year. I remember that Jeans that I used to tilt down my waist every time I encounter a person in the street so that to hide my socks. I now remember, smilingly, that I had yellow socks which were phosphorous. I suspect that two girls, in my college, used to laugh at the color of my socks.