“I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody” by Sinan Antoon

This article is also available in: Italiano

“I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody” is the first book written by Sinan Antoon and will allow the reader to discover both prison and daily life in Saddam’s Iraq

I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody

On August 23, 1989, the Iraqi Interior Ministry was informed that a manuscript was found in an archive during an inventory carried out at the headquarters of the Central Police Command in Baghdad. Scrawled in pencil, it turns out to be the diary of a young convict named Furat. From the manuscript we discover that he was a student of Letters and a novice poet, endowed with a sardonic and corrosive wit, arrested one beautiful day in April while he was looking at the sky over Baghdad sitting on a bench waiting for Arij, his fiancée. Furat recalls the nightmare of the regime’s prisons and, in parallel, his daily life until his arrest: adolescence, family, university, dictatorship, the Iraq-Iran war, football matches at the stadium, first loves. He tells of an impossible Iraq, where the regime is everywhere, in public and private life, of the hysteria of the Ba’athist dictatorship, so similar to our fascism. Only in the finale, set in an apocalyptic and deserted Baghdad, does hope seem to emerge, but maybe it’s just an illusion, a mirage.

Life under Saddam

“I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody” is a really sweet and subtle novel that will allow you to find out more closely what it was like to live in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, showing not only historical facts or major events, but focusing above all on elements such as love, school and football and showing us how the latter, like a river, find a thousand and one ways to flow and show us their beauty. The surprising and at times moving feature of this novel is in fact to observe how, despite such a ferocious dictatorship, there is still room for the sweetness of a love and the desire for revenge typical of sport, elements that our protagonist will relive every day of his life and his captivity.

I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody

Other very interesting elements are the premise of the manuscript, which constantly plays with the Arabic language to create chaos in the minds of the faithful to the party, and the religious affiliation of the protagonist. In fact, like Sinan Antoon himself, the protagonist is also a Christian from Baghdad, which provides the reader with new elements to better understand a scenario as complex as the Iraqi one. A truly delightful book which, while often speaking of tragic elements such as prison under the Ba’athist dictatorship, manages to appear as a light of normality in the darkness of the storm.

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