علي لطيف Ali Latif

Book review: Saddam City

December 1, 2010 Ali Latif

Amidst the turmoil of post-war Iraq, it’s unsurprising that many chose not to mull over the demise of the previous regime as real and present challenges they faced quickly put pay to any initial euphoria. However given the duration and barbarity of Saddam’s rule it is surprising that there have been few books that have effectively articulated its horrors throughout the years.

In contrast to the mediocre propaganda they spew out, totalitarian regimes seem to spur some of the best literary works in those resisting them, be it the Soviet Union for Solzhenitsyn  and Nabakov or the rise of European fascism for Kafka.

Saddam City by Mahmoud Saeed is a definite contribution in this regard and reading through, it is uncanny how similar it reads to the above-mentioned writers. The macabre absurdities generated by such systems seem to yield close parallels despite vast contextual differences that separate them.

Saeed’s story is about an Iraqi teacher from Basra who is one day whisked into the brutal world of the Iraqi Emin, shuttled from prison to prison with no idea of the case against him. Effortlessly shifting from the mundane to the harrowing, the tale is spun in such a matter-of-fact way as to reflect the brutal but cold arbitrariness of the regime.

To give him credit, Saeed does not attempt to capitalise on the graphic aspects of his and other prisoners’ ordeals, but still manages to shock and unsettle to reader. The protagonist’s journey across Iraq reveals the breadth of the regime’s destruction as he finds tremendous warmth from amongst the very many facets of Iraq’s populous united in their common brutalising ordeal. Rather an optimistic take given the post-regime aftermath.

A former prisoner and schoolteacher himself, the autobiographical nature of this work is taken for granted and its original Arabic title was in fact I am the One Who Saw but published by Dar Al-Saqi in London under the title of Saddam City. A short but engaging read, this work is a worthy attempt at doing justice to the very many victims of the Saddam era.

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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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