Iraq + 100 Writers Anoud and Diyaa al-Jubeili, Writing ‘About the Fires Burning You Up from Within’

Yesterday, one of the authors featured in the collection Iraq + 100, the pseudonymous “Anoud,” was featured on PRI’s The World, while two days ago The Poleax published an interview with Iraq + 100 contributor Diyaa al-Jubeili:

On The World, Mosul-born “Anoud” talked about her story, “Kahramana,” which satirizes NGOs, the US presence in Iraq, and mostly ISIS on her current life in the US, a country she’s afraid to leave, and the similarities between ISIS and Trump doctrine. You can read “2017 feels almost as strange as this writer’s dystopian vision of Iraq in 2103” and listen to the interview, which took place in the author’s current NYC home.

The Poleax also recently published a discussion between Iraq + 100 contributor Diyaa al-Jubeili and translator Andrew Leber, who brought al-Jubeili’s “The Worker” into English.

From the interview:

Photo courtesy Diyaa al-Jubeili.
Photo courtesy Diyaa al-Jubeili.

Andrew Leber: How does it feel to be the only writer in the Iraq +100 project to still live in Iraq proper?

Diyaa al-Jubeili: I don’t think of this as anything special in relation to the other authors on that project. Yet it’s a difficult thing to write about the fires burning you up from within. I did feel, as I wrote my story, like somebody searching for something deep within a forest, surrounded by wild beasts and dense foliage and unknown dangers. I imagine that’s a struggle that would be much different if you were gazing down on the forest from atop a mountain rather than wandering within it.

AL: What do you see as in store for the future of literary production in Iraq? Do you think the large number of intellectuals living abroad will tend to fragment this output, or allow for greater connection with broader Arab and non-Arab audiences?

DJ: There is an idea one commentator coined after the 2003 war, that there is an internal literature and an external literature for Iraq — the former written inside Iraq by those still living there, and the latter written by emigres. Some have started to separate these works into their own categories, as if these were two separate literatures, not one single expression of a common identity.

I strongly doubt that there is an “internal” literature or an “external” literature. If there are writers here working from the heart of the swamps, that doesn’t mean writers abroad are working from within an ivory tower, even if each certainly brings different experiences to their work. Personally, I think there is a bright future for the Iraqi novel and short story, yet those of us living here still lack the most basic means of getting published. It is next to impossible to get in touch with a foreign audience.


‘Iraq + 100’: Ten Visions of Iraq in 2103