Category: Iraq

Muhsin al-Ramli: حدائق الرئيةة (The President’s Gardens)

The latest addition to my website is Muhsin al-Ramli‘s حدائق الرئيةة (The President’s Gardens). The novel tells the stories of three close Iraqi male friends. At the beginning of the novel, in the village where htey live, nine crates are found, containing the severed heads of various villagers, including one of the three friends, Ibrahim. The book tells how w got there, with lots of violence as a result of the Iran-Iraq War, the the Gulf War, the interim period when Saddam sees enemies everywhere, the Iraq War and the aftermath of that war. The three friends and we see a huge amount of violence as a direct result of the wars and of Saddam Hussein’s butchery. Al-Ramli spares us no details. We learn why Ibrahim was murdered, the origins of one of the three friends, Abdullah, a foundling, and what the President’s Gardens had to do with the story which, despite the beautiful gardens, turn out to be no prettier than the rest of the book. Al-Ramli left Iraq for Madrid in 1995. This book shows why he and many other Iraqis went into exile.

Samir Naqqash: فراعراقية (Tenants and Cobwebs)

The latest addition to my website is Samir Naqqash‘s فراعراقية (Tenants and Cobwebs). Samir Naqqash was an Iraqi Jew whose family emigrated to Israel when conditions for Jews in Baghdad became very difficult in Iraq. He never really fit in while in Israel and, unlike, many Jewish émigrés, persisted in writing in Arabic rather than Hebrew, which meant he had less success than other Jewish writers in Israel. This book is set in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the 1940s, when the situation is getting bad for the Jews, following the Farhud (pogrom), as a result of Nazism, Zionism and Arab nationalism. We follow the stories of a host of colourful characters, Jewish and Arab, as they struggle with their own lives, all the while becoming increasingly aware that their stay in Iraq is drawing to a close after many hundreds of years and they will have to leave (By 2013, only five Jews remained in Baghdad, down from 50,000 in 1900). Naqqash tells a superb story of their own problems and disputes, against the background of rising tensions and the gradual realisation that they will have to leave Baghdad.

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