Iraqi Novelist Ahmed Saadawi on Writing

In an interview posted on the Beirut39 website, Sousan Hammad asked Iraqi novelst Ahmed Saadawi who, among Iraqi writers, had most influenced him:

At first, the short stories and novels by the late Mahdi Issa Saqer were very inspiring to me. So was the case with Mohammad Khodair. But this might render me as ungrateful and exaggerating, the truth is I never really liked a specific Iraqi writer. I liked the persistence and the technique of Abdul Khaleq Raqabi in his novel “When a Kestrel Flies”. However, all of the critical novels were outside of the Iraqi realm: Abdul Rahman Munif, Abdul Hakim Qassim, Ghassan Kanafani, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra…etc.

Hammad writes that an excerpt of Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad will appear in the forthcoming Beirut39 anthology. Hammad asks about how the novel “backgrounds” the current war, featuring not the conflict itself but a garbage picker who is collecting body parts.

Says Saadawi:

I still believe that reaching the abyss of civil war and cheap daily massacres is the ugliest moment in Iraq’s modern history. Many of us still refuse to morally face this moment. We slaughtered one another in a cold and barbaric manner, now we must apologize from ourselves and from others.

Saadawi on the dehumanizing aspects of the war:

It makes me sad to know it is hard to share my experience with others. Art gives me a space to express what I find hard to share. Art goes around the dry news that journalism offers.

It digs deeply inside the human state, transcending humans above the nihilism of numbers and statistics; it quenches their thirst with the water of life (even in an imaginary world).

More about and from Ahmed Saadawi on the Beirut39 site.

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