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Iraqi writers: The war forced us to enter the places forbidden to write


They talk about its effects and reflections on their novels

What has the Iraq war, which coincides with its twentieth anniversary today, caused in the structure of Iraqi society, and thus in Iraqi culture? How was this great event reflected in the productions of Iraqi writers? Is it possible to talk about before and after the war, with its subsequent results on the levels: social, economic, moral, and the nature of the political system? Especially since it came after a severe blockade that lasted ten years, and before that the grinding Iraqi-Iranian war that lasted eight years?

Here are the testimonies of a number of Iraqi writers:

Burhan Shawi: In my novels, I dealt with all the wars in Iraq

In fact, Iraqis face an ambiguous question: Is the war waged by most of the countries of the (civilized) world, led by America, against Iraq, in order to overthrow the tyrannical, dictatorial regime, a liberation of Iraq or an occupation of it? The answers have changed according to whims and political inclinations, despite the fact that the United Nations issued a resolution regarding Iraq as an occupied country by America. This is a thorny topic, and it will remain controversial for a long time in history.

Literally, I dealt with the period of the wars in which Iraq participated in my fictional works. For example, I dealt with the Iran-Iraq war in more than one novel, and also dealt with the American bombing of Iraq in the “Labyrinth of Ghosts”, where the large house that includes many families in the Haydar Khaneh area disappears, and only one remains of it. A hole opening her cheeks, formed by the fall of an American missile.

The tragedies of peoples are immortalized by literature. Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” immortalized the Russian-French war, and Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” revealed the ugliness of World War II. Indeed, Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war texts revealed the tragedy and absurdity of wars. Even in my novel, “Mourning Befits Mrs. Baghdad,” I dealt with the soul of a soldier who wanted to return to Iraq, after he fell as a martyr in neighboring countries as a result of the futile wars waged by the Iraqi regime. But the war to overthrow the dictatorial regime and the occupation of Iraq dealt with it, with its consequences and presence, in the “Labyrinth of Cain” through the “burrows” of the American forces and the blocking of the streets. And the homes that destroyed their inhabitants, and the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost during that war. War is a tragedy.

Shakir al-Anbari: Iraq has become another entity

The war destroyed that old image of Iraq that had long been imprinted in our minds, and we began to see another entity that no longer had anything to do with our cities, our streets, and our human pattern, which was shattered by successive changes, and it lost its compass, in a way. That erupting volcano is more massive than he can explain or live with. This is at the level of society, place, and the traditional balance of power on which the individual was brought up. This required years for the writers to find a coherent vision for using a shattered reality, governed by fragility, in a poetic or fictional text, or through other arts. I personally wrote more than one novel that dealt with the reality of the earthquake that occurred. That is, the death of the old and the birth of a new society with abnormal features, and most of what appeared to me in the novel “Happy Country”, and it came about the life of a village that lived under occupation, the demise of the political system, and the disintegration of the accepted standards. In that novel, I captured the erasure of the old memory of the village and its people, whether in terms of place, traditions, or human relations, as the villagers found themselves in an unfamiliar quagmire, not understanding what was happening to them, which made them feel helpless, despair, and a loss of logic. As for my second novel, “The Star of the Bataween,” the same idea came up, but the reader finds his soul in the capital of Iraq. Baghdad, which is living in utter chaos, from explosions, foreign soldiers, sectarian conflicts, and the erosion of its civilized, urban face, after the collapse of the previous authority and the blurring of the horizon, which left its mark on the lives of the protagonists of the novel, so they turned to wine, daily absurdity, and searching for a way to escape. Considering that the war; Any war can leave nothing but tragedies, as we, as writers, are still floundering over its results and interactions. And most of the Iraqi literature after that war came as a deafening echo, and a high-pitched replay of the daily catastrophe experienced by society and its elites. We discovered, belatedly, that the war was not a solution to the dark tunnel that Iraq walked through forty years ago.

– Maysaloun Hadi: I presented war and paths that give hope

If we forget everything that we have memorized, we certainly do not forget a poetic verse said by Al-Mutanabbi or Abu Tammam on the subject of war or any significant event. The June setback, the Iran-Iraq war, or the changes that took place after 2003. We can even consider the novel as a mirror of the raging reality. Not only in the Arab world, but in the whole world, where we find writers whose names were associated with certain works about the war in which they immortalized places, cities and events through the novel, and had it not been for them they would have been forgotten, including, for example, novels: the German writer Remarque “Lisbon Night” and “Love has a time and war Time”, and there are also the novels of Ernest Hemingway, and some Latin American writers who lived a burning and hot reality, so they became famous for the legend of this reality through high-tension “tragic” contents, to which they added a new form in the language. Thus, the Latin novel entered the global club through experiences that interacted with the coups and military unrest of their countries. In Iraq, too, the experiences of wars and turmoil had a major share in the novels that were published during the last fifty years, but after 2003 they gained greater freedom in dealing with them from new angles that are not subject to ideological or official slogans and orientations. For me, I have presented war in my novels in parallel with other paths that offer possible hope, even in the worst of circumstances. This is what happened in “The Throne and the Table”, for example, or “A light pink dream”, or “The most beautiful story in the world”, and since war is, as the poet Zuhair bin Abi Salma says: “War is nothing but what you knew and tasted … and what is The amount of sadness or oppression that exists in daily life will be a burden on the reader who has lived through its evils and painful details, if the writer repeats it without breaking it with what is different from the dark image that people experienced, or saw in the media.

– Khudair al-Zaidi: Three wars and a siege filled the reservoirs of memory

War also has its only virtue for soldier-writers like myself; Because it provides them with an endless narrative drama of the history of Iraqi blood that has been transgressed throughout history, and on the other hand, I pity, and do not envy, the writers of many countries. And contemplation or meditation to penetrate it, in order to beg the spinal cord of their contemporary narrative literature at the level of Western literature. It is not surprising that the products of modernity work on novels or stories of the kitchen, food, fashion and the library, while we Iraqis need a thousand years to come in order to get rid of the phobia of wars sticking to our sad sentiments, which lament widows, friends and orphans with grand narratives, or perhaps small epics about the history of blood shed.

Three wars and a siege on the scale of war were enough to fill the memory tanks of the current generation of narrative writing, the generation of living soldiers as they write down the colossal tragedies. Difficult; Rather, the impossible, to survive the war, but on a personal level, I would take refuge in sand sheets and trenches for the sake of this day. Perhaps the last thing that was issued to me was the narration of “My Friend, the Translator” of a story that was ingrained in my head twenty years ago, of a soldier who fled during the war when his fellow soldier killed the friend, so he replaced the identity papers between him and his friend. Between missing in the war, and killed as a martyr with all the privileges. He runs away, but his family receives his headless body. So the authority then bestows wealth on them. The fact that their son is a “martyr”, so the war is a story of a military history for our selves. We draw on this history to explain what is happening in our day. Soldiers writers throughout history are the righteous children of the history of blood.

– Hamid Al-Mukhtar: The recent war had a positive and negative cultural impact

Wars, all wars, are a tool of destruction and destruction of societal and moral human values ​​and of all that is beautiful and sublime, so that ruin and ugliness prevail, and all of this will affect the intellectual, creative and cultural conditions in general, and this is what happened after the last war in Iraq and the fall of the Ba’athist regime and the collapse of all its institutions and cultural and partisan traditions. . And this happened to us, as the cultural life in Iraq stopped and the Iraqi intellectuals were cut off, but at the same time this war added to us a new page of events in raw materials that could be fictional, fictional and epic themes. So, the recent war affected positively and negatively the movement and process of the Iraqi cultural situation in general. Life stands and is a dividing line between two eras: a collapsed dictatorial era that has come to lie in the shadow of the black past, and an open democratic era that gives the writer a new opportunity to see the world with a view other than the one that prevailed in all of his cultural and narrative legacy, then it – that is, the war and the fall of the dictatorial regime – opened a door In front of the emergence of new names in the writing of the novel, which added a new glow and blood to the Iraqi narrative, and in terms of my personal experience, I accompanied all these dramatic developments, taking advantage of the opportunity to enter a new era that Iraq had not gone through before, and it became necessary for all of us to write what we feel and live. Especially since it has become possible for us to enter the prohibited places in writing, those taboos that the previous regime set red lines in front of, and whoever crosses them will disappear from the face of the earth. Therefore, after I completed most of my novels that exposed the previous regime, I wrote my novel “Tabu”, which kept pace with the new developments after The fall of the regime, and I even cursed the politicians of the new democratic era who continued the march of general destruction that was started by the grave regime and completed by these corrupt people.