A relative of Jabra’s entrusted with the home and son were both killed; countless papers, books, and paintings from the Iraqi and greater Arab art world were also ruined or destroyed. The NYTimes article about the event and its aftermath, which ran yesterday, is at times depressingly, at times irritatingly sweeping. The article is suffused with lyrical nostalgia: Jabra’s legacy of beauty and art has been destroyed. An era (in Iraq, or in the Arab world) is over.
Roger Allen, the translator of Jabra’s brilliant and celebrated In Search of Walid Masoud sounded the death knell for (Arabic?) literature:
“We’re in an era when cultures habitually and even deliberately misunderstand each other,” Mr. Allen said.
Someone like Mr. Jabra, he said, echoing others, “may not be possible anymore.”
But professor and translator Issa Boullata, a friend of Jabra’s, refused to go along with the sweep of the NYTimes story:
…he disagreed with the notion that the house was the atlal, the ruins, of a bygone era. “Too pessimistic,” he said, adding that Mr. Jabra was never pessimistic.
Remember Jabra Ibrahim Jabra:
- Read a piece by him that ran in Al Ahram in 2003, a year before his death: Mystery in Mesopotamia.
- Order In Search of Walid Masoud from Amazon.Com, or buy it at your local indie bookstore.
- And then order Princesses’ Street, translated by his friend Issa Boullata.