I am the One Who Saw

THOMPSON LOPEZ

 The title, I Am the One Who Saw, immediately grabs the reader’s attention. It also instantaneously raises questions in the mind of the reader. What exactly did he see, and what does he know? Mahmoud Saeed writes a novel that evokes all types of emotional responses. Saeed gives us a firsthand glance into life under the cruelty of totalitarianism. Saeed uncovers the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and shows us all the inhumanity that can take place. Saeed was pushed to the brink of dehumanization, and his story is both startling and saddening. Getting to meet the author and see the man who experienced these horrendous events was fascinating. Mahmoud Saeed’s visit to class causes one to re-examine the novel in ways that might have been missed had he not come and spoke to us. In one of the more saddening and interesting quotes from the novel, Saeed write, “despite the exhaustion, restraints, and reduction of my humanity to the banality of a mere number, I found myself in a space suffused with human warmth.  These men might have violated the laws of society or they might have been criminals from the point of view of the state, but I believed in their innocence partly because I knew my own and partly because they received me with open arms; I felt I was one of them.” For me it was so interesting to actually be sitting about ten feet away from the man who so vividly described the horrors that happened to him. To have the novelist there in person was a very real experience. Saeed did not look like a man who experienced such extreme torture and hatred inside the walls of numerous Iraqi prison cells. He spoke with such ease about events that, to most of us, seem almost unreal. We almost don’t want to believe that humans are capable of committing these acts, so, in some cases, we choose to ignore them. It was also interesting to hear that certain aspects were omitted from the novel, and that Saeed did not sound too happy about it. Saeed told us that a chapter that examined the homosexuality that occurred within the jail walls was forced to be taken out by the Syrian government because, as Saeed said, homosexuality in that culture is viewed as a horrible offense. Saeed was visibly angered by the fact that the publishers made him change the name of his work from I Am the One Who Saw, to Saddam City. I Am the One Who Saw was the title of the novel in Arabic, and was published as such abroad, but in America was changed. It is, in a way fitting that those two chapters were omitted by the publishers. He is the one who saw, and he recounts his experiences based on what he saw in an honest fashion. However the government not only didn’t want him to see, but certainly did not want him to tell his story to the world. He saw what was not meant for him to see (Mahmoud told us that if he was to return to Iraq he would most likely be murdered). It was a great experience to hear the story from the man in person. It makes one realize that this actually did happen, and put a face to the name and the struggle. Saddam City opened my eyes personally to the horrors of torture, and absolute power when it goes unchecked.

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About mahmoudsaeediraq

I am an Iraqi writer. I came to the USA in 1999, and I got politic asylum. Since that time I am living in Chicago, Illinois. I have written more than 20 novels and short story collections and hundreds of articles. Some of my novels were destroyed by Iraqi regimes. I have won awards in Iraq, Egypt and the United States. I also have won awards for short stories, one in Iraq and the second in UAE. I worked in Iraq as a high school teacher teaching Arabic literature. I was imprisoned six times between 1959 and 1980. I was dismissed from my job for three years, so I went to Morocco and I worked there as a high school teacher. I wrote about last time in prison as novel titled, "I am the one who saw." This novel was translated to English by Dr. Sadri (a professor of Lake Frost University) and published in Al Saqi house publishing company in London by the name of "Saddam City." The New York Public Libraries listed my novel as one of the best novels of the last century. Amnesty international chose 37 writers from all over the world, including me, to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We wrote short stories, and the collection was published in London, USA, Canada, Spain, and Turkey. It was translated in more than 20 languages. MAHMOUD SAEED, Chicago, Illinois
This entry was posted in مقالات نقدية بالإنكليزية عن أعمال محمود سعيد - Reviews in English About Mahmoud's Works. Bookmark the permalink.

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