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April 2013

Iraq, Ten Years Later

April-2013-Writing from Iraq-Jamal Penjweny-Iraq-Falwja
Jamal Penjweny, "Iraq- Falwja" (detail) 2009

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
Wasn’t it your bloody rabbit that laid the egg?
Translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Salman and the Mule Suicides
By Najem Wali
Mules in this country had become conscientious objectors.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Be Quiet, Soldiers
By Ali Bader
There’s no glory or holy symbolism in dying during warfare.
Translated from Arabic by Amir Moosavi
A Portal in Space
By Mahmoud Saeed
They were almost at Anwar’s house when the third bomb fell.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
The One-Eyed TV
By Muhsin al-Ramli
This is how our village acquired its own Rambo and Tarzan.
Translated from Arabic by Yasmeen Hanoosh
By Luay Hamza Abbas
He lies silently and calmly in the hole, waiting for it to be filled in.
Translated from Arabic by Yasmeen Hanoosh
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
She exploded, “So why isn’t she pregnant yet?”
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
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
The Mulberry Tree
By Salima Saleh
Muhammad had returned from the dead, resurrected from the bones that had sunk in the well.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
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