Title: I'jaam : an Iraqi Rhapsody
Author: Sinan Antoon
Yearly Count: 11
Publisher: City Lights
I'jaam is completely different than anything I've ever read. I rarely give books, even good books such a large number of snaps. Several times throughout the book I was horrified, others I was drawn into love, and throughout the entire book a common theme of fear and terror is dreadfully looming. If I'jaam doesn't smack you in the face to say wake up! it is already too late for you, blood has left your veins cold. I had to try my hardest and not underline the entire text! It was that good.
I'jaam is a novel, but Sinan Antoon insightfully writes this masterpiece as a manuscript that was found in the an inventory of the general security headquarters located in Central Baghdad. The writings are of the life of a young man and an educated prisoner all in one. His thoughts are so segmented that you see the disjointedness he must feel, which is in every way spawned through fear, heartless acts, and a lack of freedom. He goes back and forth between what happened, what is happening and what is in every bit too horrible to ever imagine happening to any human being.The novel is set in a time where The Leader (Saddam) is in power, a time when life is full of fear and complete inconsistency. Even though suffering and fear are the themes throughout, there is also love, family, education and life to show that all dreams are not lost, even if they are extremely hidden, and held close to oneself. The will to live life is the hardest to snuff, when there is even an ounce of hope and Antoon shows hope in this novel again and again, in a real way that is never false and always just right. Feel the outcry of humanity and read this novel, I'jaam by Sinan Antoon. I am changed, and my outlook is forever different because of this one all too short novel.
Below are some quotes that were just craziness to leave off, wet your tongue on this and get your hands on the book!
" We have been taught to call these frequent events "revolutions," when they are actually scars on our history. A bunch of sadists get sunstroke and declare themselves saviors. Then they begin to torture people and ride them like mules, especially after they discover that this is easier, and perhaps more pleasurable, than fulfilling their promises. Later, another group will come along to dispose the first, brining with them longer whips and chains of a more economic metal. A sadistic circle forever strangling us" (p. 11).
"Hey! What are you doing here? It's forbidden!"
"Forbidden" was the most often-used word in the country, especially among those who enjoyed a bit of power, or imagined that they did" (p. 56).
"The family, as an institution, is stronger than all the armies of the world" (p. 57).
" A simple idea came to me at that moment: isn't freedom the most beautiful feeling in the whole world? Simple, trivial, everyday freedom. I didn't even allow the "No Walking" sign stabbing the grass to spoil my mood" (p.93).