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April 2013

Iraq, Ten Years Later

As part of our tenth-anniversary year, we are returning to the “Axis of Evil,” Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, the subjects of our first three issues. We begin with Iraq, which has just passed its own ten-year milestone, one of bloody conflict and deadly political strife rather than fiction and poetry. From the Green Zone to a tiny mountain village, in battlefield chaos and domestic upheaval, Luay Hamza Abbas, Abd al-Khaliq al-Rikabi, Muhsin al-Ramli, Sinan Antoon, Ali Bader, Hassan Blasim, Sargon Boulus, Duna Ghali, Mahmoud Saeed, Salima Saleh, and Najem Wali record not only the decade of war but its effects on the home front. In our special section, we present reportage from Iraq by Algeria's Mustapha Benfodil and Poland's Mariusz Zawadzki. This issue is funded in part by a private foundation.

 

Beyond the Trauma of War: Iraqi Literature Today
By Yasmeen Hanoosh
A decade after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, we cannot approach Iraqi literature today without recognizing the multiple shifts and varieties in its expression. In a matter of ten years, the post-Ba'thist…
The Green Zone Rabbit
By Hassan Blasim
In this story by Hassan Blasim, two would-be assassins in Iraq's Green Zone wrestle with the mystery of an egg-laying rabbit.Before the egg appeared, I would read a book about law or religion…
Translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Salman and the Mule Suicides
By Najem Wali
My acquaintance with Salman extends back to our military service, to the winter of 1984, I think. In that year I began to serve in a series of units that fought in the mountains, cities, and canebrakes…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Be Quiet, Soldiers
By Ali Bader
At the Ajeerda divide, the strip of land that separates the marshes on the eastern side, east of the city of Amarah, we were gathered into deeply dug-out positions. Thousands of soldiers, dressed in khaki…
Translated from Arabic by Amir Moosavi
Multilingual
A Portal in Space
By Mahmoud Saeed
The Friday bombardment started a little later than usual, at 8:30 a.m. The sound was loud and clear. Umm Anwar sighed, and her pain showed clearly in her expression. Furrowing her brow and ready to explode,…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Multilingual
The One-Eyed TV
By Muhsin al-Ramli
Just as the thirteenth year of my life started, the Iraqi-Iran war began. Before it was even a year old, my oldest brother was killed and one of my cousins was taken as a prisoner of war. That is when…
Translated from Arabic by Yasmeen Hanoosh
Multilingual
Merrymaking
By Luay Hamza Abbas
He is not a tightrope walker, a snake charmer, or a tiger tamer. His hands are empty no charm or sleight to them, and he does not have any puppets, hoops, pungis, or whips—his mere body is his only…
Translated from Arabic by Yasmeen Hanoosh
Multilingual
Music in a Baghdad Alley
By Sargon Boulus
No matter where you settle or wander That first melody is yours At every arrival and departure Its living face will meet you at the entrance that remains If you walk and the opposing wind is in your face…
Translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon
In Saadi Shirazi’s Garden (When He Was a Prisoner)
By Sargon Boulus
The river flows. Guides hide in the woods. I am a single day dragging an apocalypse of days. Wounded battalions smelling the burning air through the dried blood on the nose. Because the city of water…
Translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon
The Arab Altar
By Abd al-Khaliq al-Rikabi
The last thing on our minds was celebrating our wedding, after we had waited so long, to the sound of air raid sirens and the reverberation of Dushka guns targeting the Iranian airplanes attacking Baghdad.…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
The Last Six Days of Baghdad
By Mustapha Benfodil
This morning, I decide on another escape route to dodge the police surveillance of the rigid Mukhabarat we can’t seem to shake off. I will jump in the first illegal taxi that comes near the hotel…
Translated from French by Lulu Norman
The Mulberry Tree
By Salima Saleh
My city—Mosul—was economical even in its delights. During its unhurried spring, which was fragrant with the scents of grass and wild flowers, there were only a few places for people to go…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
A Vacation in Basra
By Mariusz Zawadzki
February 2005. Violence rages following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the southern port city of Basra is dominated by the militants of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The British, who are stationed…
Translated from Polish by Sean Gasper Bye
A Butterfly in New York
By Sinan Antoon
I chased it so often in our Baghdad garden But it would always fly away Today Three decades later In another continent It perched on my shoulder Blue Like the sea’s thoughts Or the tears of a dying…
Translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon
Your Body Journeyed Off
By Duna Ghali
Each time I’ve approached it, my personal effects have scattered. The smell of a journey clings to your body. Each time I’ve approached you, I’ve packed my personal effects. Your body…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
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