Mary Whipple

Iraqi schoolteacher Mustafa Ali Noman has spent his life avoiding Saddam Hussein’s military, the Baath Party, and controversy in general. Happily married and the father of a young son and daughter, he and his wife are, for the first time, in a position to build a house, and the house is close to completion. After leaving school for an hour to pay the final bill to the contractor, Noman returns to his class, but he is arrested by two Security officials as soon as he returns, taken to prison for interrogation and jailed. The officials will not believe that the name he gives them is really his name.

It is 1979, and Noman knows that “sooner or later, everyone is liable to run afoul of the regime or be mistaken for someone who has.” Thaough he is completely innocent, Noman spends the next year being moved from prison to prison, where he and those with him are tortured by some of the most painful methods ever devised. Children, women, and the elderly are also jailed and subjected to similar tortures, also including rape. As one of eighteen men in a cell measuring six by eight feet, Noman asserts that “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.” He knows those with him are also innocent, and he feels one with them.

Told in an almost journalistic style, author Mahmoud Saeed, who himself was arrested and jailed for a year in 1963 and rearrested five more times after that–up to 1980–uses his personal observations and his own feelings to pay witness to the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s regime. His concise and straightforward style allows the reader to develop an emotional connection with the characters on his/her own, and sets Saeed’s feelings, noticeable throughout, into sharp relief. By having Noman, a Basra resident, transferred from southern Iraq to prisons as far north as Irbil and Sulaymaniah, where five thousand Kurds suffered genocide, the author can show that the horrors and war crimes are widespread.

In some ways, reading this novel feels like reading Kafka, but the absurdities faced by Gregor Samsa and Josef K are frivolous compared to what Saddam Hossein forced upon his people. War crimes take on a whole new meaning as “Noman” becomes an Everyman, his unjust sufferings common under Saddam’s rule.

 Mary Whipple

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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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