The second gem of Contemporary Iraqi Fiction: An Anthology is Samir Naqqash’s “Tantal.” There is only one story by him in the collection, although it’s a lovely one, about illusionment and disillusionment of a young Jewish Iraqi (later Israeli) who is raised on stories of the mythical “Tantal.”
Despite his disbelief in Tantal—and there’s a lovely teenage moment where he shrugs off his grandmother, although he still wants to believe—his fascination with the creature abides. Probably because of his cultural dislocation he clings to it all the more.
I was dismayed to learn that Naqqash died in 2004. I remember watching him in the lovely documentary Forget Baghdad and thinking: I must read some of his fiction. Must, must, must. But, as Naqqash says in “Tantal”: “The nastiest of all human afflictions—forgetfulness.”
This is the first that I have, unfortunately. I wish I had sooner. I will look for more.