“It’s publication day for Muhsin al-Ramli’s The President’s Gardens, and translator Luke Leafgren has offered to share one of his copies with an interested ArabLit reader.”
“On one recent afternoon, al-Moussawi drove to an upscale neighborhood and parked at a mall near the University of Baghdad. There the clientele was mainly students, so he put out textbooks, novels and poetry in different languages, and celebrity biographies.”
Iraqi novelist Mortada Gzar — contributor to the recent collection Iraq + 100, participant in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and author of the acclaimed Mr. Azger Akbar (2013) — writes, in his latest novel, about a man who supervised the animals belonging to a son of Saddam Hussein.
“All the events described in this novel were either directly experienced by the author or related to him by others. He assures us they are all real.”
Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the bombing of Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street, the city’s historic bookselling corridor.
The furniture too corresponds with the wood,
the way distant sons write to their mothers
Only the tree whose child they’ve carved into a coffin,
does not receive any mail.
“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.”
In the end, the author gives us two possible endings. Do we choose to save Wadoud and send him outside Iraq to have a new life and a new chance outside Iraq, where he will publish his index? Or will Namir publish the index after Wadoud’s life ends?
In this essay, Afrah said that “freedom of expression” was the phrase most frequently used by Iraqi politicians post-2003, “yet our lives, we journalists, are risked every time we criticize any head, even if it were the head of onion.”
Iraq is often portrayed as a place that has always been violent and always will be. By germinating new narrative possibilities, Iraq + 100 provides new ways of imagining the next century that go beyond seeing the present as eternal.
“My role? For years I would receive emails, hate mail from the Arab world. Now I get hate mail from Finns! Because I speak about racism, about refugees.”
Ten titles were selected for the Autumn 2016 round of PEN Translates awards.