More Memories of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Felicity Arbuthnot remembers the great Palestinian author who made Iraq his home on the GlobalResearch website. Jabra died in 1994, but his Baghdad home was destroyed last month by a car bomb. Don’t forgo reading his In Search of Walid Masoud, or Princesses’ Street: Baghdad Memories.

With Arbuthnot’s permission, I quote liberally:

I met Jabra just once, in Baghdad, in 1994, at dinner with friends. He left an indelible memory. Late in the evening, he invited me to his home, truly the window of his soul. It was to touch and breathe beauty. Sculptures by his friend the internationally renowned Mohammed Ghani, who had also been at the dinner (now in exile, courtesy liberation) graced alcoves. Books and plants ran riot. I wandered from room to room, in this house of someone encountered just hours before, knowing each space, each wall, would hold something more uniquely superb – then apologising for my intrusion, moving on again, compelled, truly spellbound. As I stopped, gazed, he would explain the provenance, background, of each piece, painting, creation.

He took me into the courtyard round which the house was built, and we sat on a low wall, the night balmy, the tiles in their creams and near turqoise glistening under the light of a carpet of stars, the scent of the citrus trees, which graced the palette of another wonderous space. He talked of the forty two day 1991 bombardment. It was hard to imagine one so seeped in aestheticism in the true sense, with such gentleness and reverence of beauty, surviving such violence, violation, destruction, deafening, death delivering bombardment. How did he? I asked.

He smiled and said that his small grandson had been given a Walkman, just before the onslaught: “I used to sit here in the night and listen to Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Elgar … watching the missile tracers – and say to myself that nations who can create such beauty cannot be all bad.” There are rare encounters that remain, that the memory revisits, for all time. Jabra was such a one.