Over at the UNESCO Courier, Iraqi novelist Inaam Kachachi — this week long listed for the 2019 Sheikh Zayed Book Award — describes “Mosul the austere, Mosul the convivial, Mosul the contradictory, Mosul the wounded, bleeding to death”:
Kachachi, longlisted for The Castaway or The Outcast (النبيذة), writes in the UNESCO Courier:
During a visit to the United States a few years ago, I remembered an Arab joke. A man sentenced to death was asked what his last wish was, before the rope was put around his neck. “I’d like to learn Japanese,” he replied. We, the people of Mosul, are in a somewhat similar situation. Condemned to exile, we dream of a return which is impossible.
On the same visit, I was invited by a local Detroit radio station – run by the Iraqi community, which is quite significant in that city – to participate in one of its broadcasts. I was surprised to find that all the programmes on the radio station were in Chaldean, and I was therefore asked to speak in that language! I then had to explain that although my mother and father were Christians, they were from Mosul and, as city-dwellers, they spoke Arabic at home. Chaldean, a recent variant of Aramaic ‒ the language of Christ ‒ was reserved for the inhabitants of Christian villages on the city’s outskirts.
As a journalist, I have always written in Arabic. I know a smattering of Chaldean, just a few phrases, and verses from songs sung at ceremonies. I grew up in Baghdad and was educated there. But it is Mosul that I love the most, that I consider home. A city surrounded by vast green plains, where we went for our Easter holidays – to enjoy the gentle climate, to savor the beauty of the gardens dappled with red poppies and yellow chamomiles. I had learned from early childhood that Mosul was a city with two springs because autumn was like a second spring.
The translator of the short essay is not named. You can read it in full at en.unesco.org/courier/.