Sunday, January 19, 2014

Yesterday I opened the T.V. and found Whitney Houston. That was strange since it was just the night before that me and my friend were talking about her. The movie entitled "Waiting to Exhale". I remember reading somewhere about the writer, a black American woman, Terry... Terry Mcmillan. The film was in its final minutes. I just took a photo for that final scene. Whitney Houston was laughing in that warm scene.

Today I was heading to work with this novel by Burhan Al-Khateeb entitled "An Appartment in Abu-Nawas Street". The story is about Iraq in the 60s when there was political tension. The protagonist, named Sami, walks the streets and read the newspapers about the tension between the Communists and the Ba'athists. There is war in the north with the Kurds. The police is searching for his friend the Kurdish, Hameed. Hameed finds a Kurdish woman in the street crying saying that she escaped from the north where there are heavy fighting between the government and the Kurds. She got relatives in Baghdad she thought she can stay with but one of the relatives took her this morning to the market and lost her. She thinks that her relative lost her deliberately because they don't want her with them. Hameed brings her to the appartment and flee. The police is after him. Adday, the third guy, is trying to seduce her. Adday is a student of medicine. Sami is a student of art. Sami is short and bold and now he is confused. I reached work while I was in page 67. We will see what happen tonight.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

When the Winds seemed Still

The short stories collection of Mahdi Eisa Al-Sigar is interesting. The stories' ends are open and thought provoking. Nevertheless they are gloomy. Two of them about an elderly expecting the near death worried. The first elderly is a female with her cat. She reads in the daily newspaper about the death of another lonely  lady who has 3 cats. The neighbours smell her body after 3 days. Her body is found mutilated since the cats had eaten from her meat. The story goes on describing the elderly's interaction with her cat. The other story is about an elderly with his granddaughter in a garden. A white horse passes nearby in the street. The elderly man knows rhat the horse is diseased ans about to die. The girl is full with joy for the sight of the horse. When the horse turns with the street ans they can no longer see him they hear a thudding sound. The girl want to go to see what happened but her granspa succeed distracting her attention from that.

Another two stories end by killing. One by the killing of a young man by his friends after his father was worrying much about him and about the kind of friends he was spending time with.  The other by a father who killed his baby son because he was crying while they were escaping from a castle. The father feared that the guards might hear him.

Another strange story that I didn't understand was about a man and a dog waiting for a train and the train is late. The man put his head on the railway to hear. He was found later dead. There was sheeps too but I am not sure if he was a shepherd.

Another two stories were about handicapped persons. One on a wheelchair spending his days meditating the cars and the people in the cars while they go and come. The other story is about a man with paralysis ans a blind man who tried to help each other to steal dates from an orchard.  They were chased out in a frightening scene. There were children watching that scene. The children stopped playing for a while after that scene ended.

the last one was a good one named "When the Winds seems Still". It is about a boy trying to fly a kite yet not knowing which way the wind is blowing and concluded that the wind is paused. The girl next door is watching. She says  that the kite tail is too long ans that might be adding extra weight on the kite preventing it from going up. The boy annoyed by her remarks does not answer her nor look at her direction. The girl left after she felt hopeless. When she left the boy cut part of the kite's tail and tried again. But it did not succeed. He changed his position and suddenly the kite goes up. The girl comes back and asks him to let her hold the thread. He handle it to her happily.

It was a short story collection that is written with finely selected words. I liked it much.

Friday, January 17, 2014

my friend's free associations

Since her death and he is haunted by her. He plays her songs for us. Do we know that "I will always love you" was sung in 1973 for the first time by a blond named Dolly Parton?

When that book about her life reached him, he starts telling us about her life. The book is written by her mother, a singer too. Her mother used to call her Nippy. Nippy, was her nickname. Nippy. It was raining today. He promised to lend me the book today. I tell him it is raining and we can postpone our meeting. He insists. He comes covering the book by his coat. "They chose her to sing the USA anthem to the troops who went back to the USA after the 1991 war. She was wearing a blue flight suit while performing!" I think he tells me that so that I value her more and more. He tells me about the USA anthem which is based on a poem talking about some rockets exploding, thus resembling stars. We google and read about THE STAR SPRANGLED BANNER. Then he types "Dodd street" in google earth and showed me the way she walking from her home to her school. He asks me if I know about GOOGLE MOON and when I say I don't he shows me the program and in a click we are in the moon. Do I know Von Braun? He tells me about that astronaut and about V1 & V2 and apollo and that ring which contain a rock from the moon he gave to Gina Lolobrigida. Lolobrigida was so famous. Like Sophia Loren, Orniela Muti, and Romy Schneider.  Do I know that Romy Schneider had suicided?? In a boat? Like her. In a bathtub. It was her husband who taught her that habit of drugs.

He always goes back to her. I love my friend's free associations, my friend who loves Whitney Houston.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Autumn of the Intellectual in Iraq

In one of his articles, Khalid Al-Qishtainy writes about his problem in translating the Arabic word (Muthaq'qaf مثقف) to English. He writes that he lived for years as a translator, and was able to buy his house and car from his work, yet he is unable to translate the word. Thus I am not trying here to translate that same word which confused Al-Qishtainy, and Margaret Thatcher too, but the book I am reading these days is worth noting:

The title contains that confusing word (Al-Muthaq'qaf) which I will translate here as "Intellectual". Hence the title will be "The Autumn of the Intellectual in Iraq" by Mohammed Ghazi Al-Akhras.

This is not the first book that talks about the relations of Iraqi intellectuals with politics from 1991 till 2008. Al-Akhras tried to do some interviews with intellectuals (novelists, poets, painters, academics) and to find some documents as references for his books. He describes those documents and the interviews by the following lines:

"The sailing with those documents and the deconstruction of their writers' minds were like going aboard a drunken boat sailing in a sea agitated by waves of hatred, negation, and repeal." p7

Trying to summarize what I read is difficult. The overall conclusion is that a dictatorship affects the psychological development of people, even intellectuals. I remember that we were, since childhood, being frightened from telling the truth. Lying, regarding about what we love, was regarded as a good deed. I remember as child we sing everyday in the school for the love of Ba'ath Party and Saddam Hussein. I remember telling my teacher that I want to be a football player. She told me that I should be a pilot and defend my country against the Iranians. We were at war with Iran back then. In the art classroom we were children but we get it, they want us to draw war scenes in which the Iraqi soldiers kill the Iranians.

During that period the book talks about (1991-2008) I was passing my teenage, then early adulthood years. Those years of coming-of-age. I was not aware to much of the things this book talks about. There is a poet that I liked much, which seems in the book as a Ba'athist, who repealed others, the non-Ba'athists. His name is Sami Mahdi. I liked the poems that he wrote regarding the existential searching for a meaning. Al-Akhras book sheds lights on meanings that I wasn't aware of. Political meanings. Ideological ones. I read that with pain. I felt silly.

The Glance 
By Saadi Youssef 
Our loss is not the earth
for the earth will stay,
it stayed before us,
it will stay after us,
earth of the singers,
and of silent ones,
earth of those who stay
and transients;
it is the earth of those
who became earth’s body
. . .

Another poem Al-Akhras's book talks about is named Saadi Yousef. He is a communist. I used to adore Iraqi communists. Why? Because they are not sectarian. Non religious. But I wasn't aware of how much they are ideologist. Didn't know about their crimes against those who were against them. I knew nothing about communist worldwide before 2003. After 2003 books and TV channels and the internet helped me to know some of what I missed. I heard of Ceausescu. I loved Herta Muller novels.
The word "Muthaq'qaf مثقف", translated here as "intellectuals" and can be translated also as "cultured, men of pen, educated", has the same root in Arabic language as the word "Argue مثاقفة = جدل". While much of the conversations in our cultural affairs are merely nervous arguments, we are hearing more calm voices shedding good lights to our past in that dark era. That darkness is still present. When a dictatorship ends, the darkness stays. It goes a little by little. Al-Akhras helped to put some lights, so thanks, many thanks to him. When I was watching TV that other night I saw Hanaa Edwar:

It was an interview with her in Al-Sumeria channel. She talks about her work. I liked the most her dog who kept playing with her during the interview. The TV presented was not that good in choosing her questions and the presented talked a lot. During those periods that that presented kept quite Hanaa Edwar talked and I was able to listen. She had a picture near her desk, the picture of Kamel Shiaa.

Al-Akhras book ends talking about Kamel Shiaa, that Iraqi intellectual who never wrote books, and was instead a "living walking book" as described by some. He was killed. I think he was frank, that man. What was that thing about "Organic Intellectuals"?

At the same time that I think of all these, the words from Orhan Pamuk's novel "Snow" comes to my mind:
"... 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

Saadi Youssef had written a tribune to the death of Kamel Shiaa. In that tribune he blamed him for going back to Iraq after living in Europe for decades of years. I don't know what to say about that. I still have the writings of all those people. Intellectuals or not. Things that I ignore about my country, my history, and my self, are more than the things that I know. Still I like to spend the life with some joy. If not joy, then let us say, comfort.

Al-Akhras ends his book with the words of Kamel Shiaa saying that Iraq reached the bottom and Iraq makes it possible to see the origins of wars, barbarism, egoism, lying, corruption, violence, the deliberate forgetting of truth, or inattention to it. While the book ends that way I remember again that poem by Saadi Youssef named "Glance" which ends by the following lines: 

"What we have lost is not the earth.
The loss is that glance we no longer exchange,
between one child and another
as they share a loaf of bread."