Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Iraqi Pantomime and Anxieties

Yaseen Taha Hafuth, an Iraqi poet and translator of literature, was writing in yesterday's Al-Sabah issue. The title of his article was "The Anxiety of Falling". It started with that usually antagonism to the biological theories of psychiatry. As structuralism was decomposed, a poetic writing prevailed. It is not me who is supposed to be fascinated with such an article, but a little degree of empathy had found itself inside at that particular moment and another dose of empathy, or even sympathy, had caught the possibility of existence in the future when a better explanation for the normality of the anxiety of falling will be read from another source.
 Falling, as a concept, had pointed to two facts: 1. The coming Arabic Summit, that will be held in Baghdad in about a week, and 2. Falling of an elderly body and hip fracture. As I contemplated Yaseen Taha Hafuth face, I knew his body is not that youth, anymore.
I always think about the bed I will lie in while knowing that I am in my last days. What will I think when I will be diseased and expecting death at any moment. Will be satisfied with what I did in my life? Could I have said, at that moment, that I have lived?
Yaseen Taha Haduth talks also about the anxiety of "living" and the anxiety of "fate". About the necessity of anxiety to motivate living and creating and thinking. This article will be read in the future again and again. Thank you Yaseen Taha Hafuth.
Have you ever heard of an Iraqi pantomime? A pantomime entitled "The Sculptor is Watching his Watch"? Written and directed by an Iraqi called Muna'im Sa'eed?
 Ali Shia'a was writing yesterday in Al-Sabah about it. Ali Shi'a was talking about his memories of 1991 when the Gulf War ended and he was forced, with others, to leave Iraq to K.S.A. and be refugees in an asylum, in tents in the Saoudian desert. Fa'is Al-Banna was among those Iraqis and he had reproduced this pantomime in front of the others asylum seekers, from his memory. The article tells us that that pantomime was forbidden to be played anymore.
Donald Rumsfeld 21st episode of his Memoir was neglected again for the sake of reading Ali Daneef who was writing about his son showing signs of falling in love. 

Ali Daneef is embarrassed in front of his son's new care about his hair and clothes and poetry. The article is very beautiful. Next to the article is a fresh photo from Paris, where the weather was hot a little making people sitting in the terraces again.
Another article was talking about the Mothers' Day in the Sumerian days which was regarded as the first of April, in a link to what the Sumerian thought the start of spring which symbolizes fertility for them. A picture with the article is showing a typical mother in traditional clothes selling vegetables. 

Happy Mothers Day to all Iraqi mothers and all mothers around the world.

Hope all the best to Ali Daneef's son.

Thank you Ali Shiay'a about that wonderful story about the Iraqi pantomime.

Yaseen Taha Hafuth, you are a master that we learn from.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bus Newspaper Reading

"Rave is still being understood as monopolized by mental illness, while it is the human language that created its raving, and raving would not be possible without a linguistic incubator, an incubator that can make raving another kind parallel to speech, or a little behind speech, or a little in front of it in its well-made beautiful majority." That was how today's Khudair Mery's article started today in Al-Sabah newspaper.

He continues after few lines that I found myself unable to translate: "… and perhaps it was Jacques Derrida who deconstructed, for the first time, the concept of writing and referring to writing as a trial to be centered around the logos."
What is more amazing in today's article is Mery's trial to elaborate on the concept of writing for us, the Arabs, and why we find difficulty in understanding Jacques Derrida's view about writing.
I don't claim that I understand Derrida. I must declare here that I didn't read anything before about Derrida in spite of one of my friend's insisting on this issue.
Mery states the quote of Gilles Deleuze about the difference between the Eastern wise-man who thinks by images in a side, and the Western philosopher who thinks in concepts.
I don't claim that I understood that, but I can assure that this saying was imprinted well in my memory for further evaluation. 
Towards the end of the article Mery mentioned one of Roland Barthes quotes: "Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away,
the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing."

Khudair Mery's last two articles are exciting and encouraging to read more and more. To open a new window. To share my friend, who likes philosophy, some views. To open conversations with some friends. Thank you Khudair Mery and thanks to Al-Sabah.  

Mohamad Ghazi  Al-Akhras wrote today in Al-Sabah. He wrote today about a conversation with a taxi man in Baghdad about the taxi man's brother visit to a psychiatrist and about that psychiatrist strange prescription: "Music, hear tranquilizing music!" 

Mohamad Al-Akhras compared between the music that is composed by Arab Iraqis Vs. music composed by Kurdish Iraqis. The former is sad, the latter is happy and dancing.
Newroz is approaching and is usually celebrated in Kurdistan vigorously. Al-Sabah showed a picture of Kurish females dancing. 

Another picture was from Afghanistan showing a man in traditional clothes standing in front of a poster of Marylyn Monroe.

The 20th episode of "Known and Unknow:  A Memoir" by Donald Rumsfeld was talking about the arrival of Paul Bremer to Baghdad. I could not read more than 4 or 5 lines then shifted to Al-Mada which talks about the history of the 100% Iraqi-made clock in Al-A'athameya.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reconsidering Khudair Mery

‘To write is certainly not to impose a form (of expression) on the matter of lived experience…Writing is a question of becoming, always incomplete, always in the midst of being formed, and goes beyond the matter of any liveable or lived experience. Writing is inseparable from becoming: in writing, one becomes-woman, becomes-animal or vegetable, becomes-molecule to the point of becoming-imperceptible.’ (Gilles Deleuze, ‘Literature and Life’)
With this quote of Deleuze today's Khudair Mery article in Al-Sabah newspaper started. Mery is writing about writing. I must declare here that I never had read anything about Gilles Deleuze before today. Thank you Khudair Mery for this clever article. For this philosophy that we need in our daily life. Because of you I will start buying Al-Sabah more and more. 

Another article tells about Khudair Mery trial to direct a theatrical piece of Jean Genet.
Today's Al-Sabah issue was remarkably mentioning the name "psychiatry" here and there. 
Labua Arab (Labua means literally: Lioness; and Arab means Arab), a new Iraqi actress was stating that: "Art had stolen me from psychiatry!"
In the article she declared her early dream to be a psychiatrist so that she can understand people. 

An article entitled: "declarations of a mentally ill" written by Ali Daneef Hasan, talks about people gathering one morning in Iraq outside a governmental department for some papers to fix, and as they were waiting a man among them declared that he is a mentally ill patient and that one must admit this and not be shy of it. Not only that but he said that he thinks that all of the Iraqis are mentally ill and most admit this to feel more secure and healthy. He added that when he started declaring his mental illness in public he started to feel much better and balanced. He said pointing to a clerk in that governmental department: "That clerk had screamed in my face and threw my papers in my face but I forgive him because I know that he is a mentally ill patient."
The article was cute and clever.
Next to the article is a picture of a Chinese man standing on his head, on a nail!

 Ali Shaye wrote an article entitled: "Psychological Needs" and is talking about those patients whose families leave them at the gates of one of Baghdad mental hospitals. Their family disappear after leaving them. Next to the article is a caricature by Khudair Al-Himyari showing a "punishment" coming to the only working clerk among the other sleeping clerks, a thing that is real and repetitive in governmental departments.
 Donald Rumsfeld's "Known and Unknown: A Memoir" is being translated in a series of articles since some time in Al-Sabah. Today was talking about the 1st of May 2003, the day of the end of the military operation in Iraq.

 There were many other interesting articles like the one about sculptures made from the previous wars' waste products. 
 Those were interesting but of course not.... cute!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday in Baghdad

It's Friday and I woke up refreshed from a long deep sleep. I called him and he answered: "I was about to go there alone, let us go together friend!". Central Baghdad, neglected but still charming in our eyes. 
 Then to Al-Mada House in Al-Mutanabbee Street.
 The man who was talking today about Ma'eda Nazhat in Al-Mada House had said: "And she had gone to Mecca for pilgrimage in the late 80s and quitted singing."
  A usual story for Arabic Muslim female singers and actors. That is not the case with male singers and actors. Many understand the hidden message, which is not actually hidden per se, that a female singer or actor is a sinner. To be more specific, she is regarded as a prostitute.
The relation between music and Muslim Arabs is a complex one.
Women who dare to sing in our culture are regarded as prostitutes until proved otherwise. Um Kalthum, Fairouz, and few others succeeded to become an exception for that rule. 

 Today I saw a group of Iraqi female singers who played traditional Iraqi music pieces with one of Ma'eda Nazhat songs, in Al-Mada House in Al-Mutanabbee street. A man shouted something between the songs and I didn't caught what he said. One of the female musicians looked at him in a gaze that was questioning and was anxious. He gave her his back and came smiling sarcastically and went walking far pretending to look at the books and magazines that were in his hands.

The musicians started another piece of music and the attendees helped to give life to the rhythm of the well-known Iraqi traditional song by their clapping.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In the Bus, with Eric Berne

Now that it is 7:35 PM in Baghdad in my parents' house watching the photos I took today with my mobile phone, it seems they come from a long time before. The "now" seems so strangely real in front of those pictures which served to stop some moments back in this same day we are still in.
I have tried in my mind to see "mentally" a summary of "Games People Play" but I failed. After reading the book, understanding 50% of it, forgetting another big part, I really have nothing specific to say about it but, it does made me apologize to a friend of mine today for a "Game" I diagnosed myself playing it with him. The apology was very brief: "(Friend's name), I am sorry I commented last Thursday that comment in front of that student". He said that it is okay and we are friends. I said: "No, if I wanted to say that to you, I should have said it quietly and while we were alone. I am sorry"

My friend invited me to a lunch. (Eric Berne talking: Ahh, you came out of nowhere this morning to your friend and said you are sorry then you get a lunch! Let us see. Is this a new game you are playing? A game entitled "I say I am sorry, I owe you a lunch"?)

Thank you friend for your generosity that embraced me. I have learned from you a lot. (Eric Berne talking: I do owe you a dinner now!). Another thanks goes to Eric Berne. Another thanks goes to Abdul-Khaliq Al-Rikabi and his novel "The Book of Eternity" which talked about games friends play, in an occult way, with each other.

As I see the pictures, I knew that I have read two newspapers today. Al-Sabah, bought originally because I saw an article written by Khudair Miri in it, and my usual newpaper: Al-Mada (=The Horizon).
Khudair Miri, an ex-inpatient in Al-Rashad hospital, the only Iraqi asylum for the mentally ill,  who wrote many books about his experience in Al-Rashad, was talking, again, about Michel Foucault. I don't understand Michel Foucault, till now. Nor Khudair Miri. The only thing I did understand was that, next to the article, to the right, there was an article about one of Steven Spielberg movies. And it was about a horse. And a war. Uhum!

Pictures about many Iraqi tragedies are in black and white almost daily in newspapers. The caricatures were better in Al-Sabah than elsewhere. 

 Al-Mada is my newspaper. Since days and the articles are discussing that last killing and physical abuse of many Iraqi young men and women only because they tried to express themselves in a non-traditional way in clothes and hair-cuts and make-up. They are called the "Emo"s. Many talking about the involvement of the Iraqi minister of internal affairs in those killings and physical abuses.
Iraqi Communist Party was talking about a trial to make a secular group of many liberal and democratic parties in front of the non-secular parties. Anyway. 
 I folded the newspaper and handled it to the old man sitting next to me: "Do you like to read Am'mo (Am'mo=uncle)?"
I took the supplement and read about the life of this Baghdadi diva. Fifteen pages say nothing but good and happy incidents that occurred to this "happy" female singer. Just few words said that she had to leave Baghdad to Beirut for some time "due to some problems". Her childhood? Was very happy and marked by her love of music which is told in brilliant words all over the 15 pages. No word about her family attitude towards her when she "chose" to take this career. 
 Whom are you trying to deceive? An Iraqi woman, born in the 1937, and was singing in bars and cabarets. All that and she was happy? And talented?
As you read her life in those 15 pages you will confront a biography of musically talented angel who was happy all the time and full of good.
She was not threatened at all, nor have any indecent behavior.
That’s the way our history is told, and re-told. Full of happiness and good things.
Denial? No! Stupidity!
Let's go back to Al-Sabah to Mohammed Gazi Al-Akhras article about the praise that Abdul-Salam A'arif, the Iraqi presedent in the 70s, had received from many Arab thinkers like Malik Bin Nabi. Malik Bin Nabi, an Arab thinker, from the so-called "enlightenment" period of the Arab countries, described Abdul-Salam A'arif with the most beautiful idealistic words, and regarded him as the typical man who can solve all the Arab problems. Yaaay!
Eric Berne, hope to meet again in a bus. So long.  


Friday, March 09, 2012

Closing "The Book of Eternity" and starting a game

I had "The Book of Eternity" on my table since years. I knew I have tried before to read it but I thought I didn't complete it. When I was reading it, every page seems to be read before. When a page seemed to be new to me, I usually conclude that I haven't read it before. But some later pages seemed familiar. It was only when I finished the novel that I knew for sure that I have read it before.
Accuse my memory of lethargy, accuse me of pretension, but this novel, is not a novel that you remember for a long time.
I have just finished it yesterday and today I am finding myself forgetful of the post that I thought I should write yesterday. Yesterday I felt so sleepy after that long trip and I had some written work to do, so the writing of the post was postponed till today, and it faded in my mind. Filtered out.
Waheed Hilmy (=Alone Dreamy) and Hanan (=Sympathy) did enter the writer's house and use his computer and find that desktop picture of the four drawings. One of the drawings is put as a cover for our novel. The four paintings (by: Edouard Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Velasquez, and ????) share the common character of including the painter himself in the painting. Waheed knew this fact about the paintings when consulting Talal Shakir (=Fine-rain Thankful) who knew that the four paintings got some relation with the experienced novelist.

The novel tells the story of a difficult relationship between three friends, where no positive emotions were sensed, but strong envy, jealousy and aggression.
The novel talks about how pain is necessary for tasting the pleasure of life.
The novel mentions, on the other hand, a quote by Nietzsche that is unforgettable: Amor Fati

The one personality that I liked the most was Yousif Shaba, an Iraqi Christian whose poverty and beauty made him play the role of a model to the students of beaux-art in Baghdad. He loves classic music, and he claims that he is writing a novel since years.
We knew about that particular piece of music of Beethoven that helped Talal in his partial recovery from paraplegia, the 14th quartet, the last piece of music composed by Beethoven before his death.
The novel tells about how relations between friends can be regarded as a game, which is a "painful game" the novel pretends.
The devil inside of me whispered in my ears: "you didn't like it because you are playing resistance to the painful facts the novel presents you!"
"Okay, then let us read what Hussein Sermek Hassan says about the novel in his psychoanalytic study entitled: Al-Rikabi, the Godfather of the Cunning Subconsious", I answered my devil. 

 I completed the study last evening but nothing significant is remembered after last night long sleep. "Resistance, Repression, Forgetfullness! Huh", the devil inside of me remarked.

 My ego, as have seen the happy sunshine this morning decided to take the positive point of view and read: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, at least we might come with something helpful finally.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Book of Eternity: a Bus Reading (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I wrote about the significance of the protagonists' names in the novel "The Book of Eternity" by Abdul-Khaliq Al-Rikabi. Today I've reached in my reading about two-thirds of the novel:
The journey to central Baghdad started at 7:00 a.m. and after that, the watch, the metaphysical eye, was forgotten. Pages ate pages, images interposed. I was happy that Hanan (the female name which literally means Sympathy, or Compassion) had gained some individual characteristics, even though, they were little negative: her addiction on using her personal computer via which she proceeds her literature study, hears music and songs, and plays video games. 

The old experienced novelist had quitted his home but had left the key for Waheed Hilmy (literally means Lonely Dreamy) in one of his neighbors' houses and invited Waheed, who is making a research on his works, to visit his library, use his books, and open his personal computer but left a notice, that he don't want Waheed to open the file of the new novel he (the experienced old writer) is about to accomplish. 
Waheed went with, his now lover, Hanan, and visited the old experienced novelist's home. The personal computer desktop shows four paintings, one of them is Velasquez's. 

All the CDs were in a desk that was locked but there was a CD left near the PC. Hanan and Waheed put the CD in and a video game started. The hero, a female, is in front of a puzzle. Hanan knew that game which is, "famous", as she said. She started playing and there was action. It was an action and puzzle game in an Egyptian site. The protagonist must find keys to open doors.
They argued, Hanan and Waheed, about opening the file that contain the new novel of the old experienced writer. The forbidden file. Hanan, as she is adventure-seeking as we started to know her more, encouraged Waheed to open the file but Waheed, the lonely dreamy young novelist, the idealistic who refused Hanan's help in stealing a paper from a magazine from the National Library of their city, refused to open the file. Instead they started examining the multiple varied books of the old writer. Waheed remembered Borges quote about his imagination of heaven as a big library. 

Hanan succeeded finally to persuade Waheed to open the forbidden file. The forbidden file words, written by the old novelist, spans from page 106 to page 156. It tells the story of the old writer with Talal Shakir (=Fine-Rain Thankful), Thabit Dhari (=Stable Predator), Dhuha (=Forenoon), and Talal's dog who is unnamed.
It tells about how rich was Talal's family and about how there was a car that was bringing Talal to the primary school each morning and taking him in the afternoon when cars were very rare in that time in their city. Talal received special treatment from teachers. Thabit and the old writer were in the same class of Talal. Thabit was aware of his family poverty. Thabit had squinted eyes, and a limp because one of his lower limbs is shorter than the other. Thabit betted the old writer, when they were children, that he can persuade Talal to give them a ride with his car. Thabit went to Talal and told him that he does not really own the car, and that the car belongs to his father, and that he cannot even let his friends go inside the car. The result was that Thabit won the bet, which was about a dish of chick-pea. 

Talal invited them to his parents' house and showed them his pets. Thabit whispered in the old writer's ears that his family does not eat chickens only rarely while Talal is playing with chickens. Thabit held grudges to Talal.
Thabit grudge towards Talal continued and grew old as they grew older. Thabit did his best to ruin the relationship between Dhuha and Talal. And at the end of the old writer's account for his story with his two friends we knew that Thabit had poisoned Talal's dog with a piece of poisoned meat.
The old writer wrote at the end that he had written another file and had put a password for it. He gave him a hint about the password saying that its meaning means: "the continuous now" and is used by Sophists. The old writer ends his chapter by saying that if Waheed will find the password, they will write this "game" together. 

Page 156 was reached and that makes 59% of the 264 pages novel. I feel I am in the game. I am waiting, since now, tomorrow's morning when I will take another bus to the working site, a journey that takes one and a half hour, and sometimes 2 hours, a journey that I am starting to accommodate to, and even to like. A little. Just a little bit. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Significance of the Arabic Names in "The Book of Eternity"

The calculator says that I have read 32% of the novel. Eighty-six pages from 265 pages means a third, almost. But since when reading novels was gauged with a calculator and a percent?
I meant not to gauge but, just to see, if I am at the position, of having the right, of writing something about "The Book of Eternity" of the well-known Iraqi writer Abdul-Khaliq Al-Rikabi.

The cover of the novel is elegant, something that is new to Iraqi book market. The cover shows a painting that I have seen somewhere but ignore any information about. 

In the minibus, from 8 a.m. till 9:30 to reach central Baghdad where I had to ask for some personal papers from a governmental institute, I succeeded, strangely, to read 86 papers in Arabic. I forgot I can read fast. Lately I tried to read English novels and I am so slow in reading them.
"The Book of Eternity" tells the story of Waheed Hilmy, a young novelist living in a small unnamed city other than Baghdad. Arab names have literal meanings and Waheed, a common Arabic name, means "Lonely", and Hilmy, another common Arab name, means "Dreamy". It is common in Arabic countries that you ask the person whom you just met about the meaning of his/her name, if it happens that you don't know its literal meaning. So Wahhed Hilmy, or the lonely dreamy young writer, is telling us his story in the novel. His story with one of the experienced writers, who is trying to travel to Baghdad (hence we knew that the place of the novel is another city, not Baghdad); Hanan, the literature student who is helping Waheed Hilmy in his research about the experienced writer and whose name, Hanan, literally means "Sympathy" or "Compassion"; Thabit Dhari, the envious jealous evil literature critic, whose name literally means "Stable Predator" (Thabit=stable or fixed; and Dhari = Predator or ferocious) and who thinks that we must put boundaries for reality and other boundaries for fiction; Talal Shakir, the painter and the sculptor, the man who loves Beethoven and whose works are appreciated by the young writer, a thing that led Talal to present one of his sculptures, a tree partially wounded by an axe, to Waheed as a present. Talal literally means "Fine Rain" and Shakir literally means "Thankful". Talal Shakir had an episode of paralysis in the past years which left him with severe muscle weakness a thing that affected his movements and especially his sculptures. Talal's girlfriend, who is like Hanan, decorative but helpful to the man, is named Thuha, a name literally means "Forenoon", or "Morning".
Talal Shakir has a dream of building some sculptors in the centre of his city, sculptors that contain clocks, clocks as a beholder of time, a "metaphysical eye" as was called by Waheed,  a dream that was discussed with the young novilist, Waheed Hilmy, a dream that made Waheed Hilmy, remembers Talal Shakir the sculpture every time he sees a watch or a clock or a watch.
Waheed dialogue with Talal was about time and place and their relation to art. The difference of the relation of music from a side, novels from another side, to time and place. Waheed dialogues are always attracting the readers eyes, like when he argued Thabit Dhari's idea about the insignificance of putting boundaries to reality, and boundaries to fiction. Modernity, and our place as Easterners, Iraqis especially, in the face of it.
So, four male personalities, and 2 females. The males have a full name (name of the person and his father), while females have only their names. The two females' names meant: sympathy, and forenoon. While the males names varied from unknown (the experienced writer), alone dreamy, fixed predator, to fine-rain thankful. The two females served as facilitators for males to play their role.
Are the females' names' meanings wider than the males?
What is the significance of the painting in the cover of the novel?
What is the significance of that particular piece of music composed by Beethoven that aided in Talal's partial healing from paralysis?
Would tomorrow's trip to central Baghdad in the aim of finishing my personal papers help me in finding some answers? Or at least, posing other questions?