A Comment on Salam Ibrahim’s novel “دُونْت سبيك أسطب”


With this new novel of 444 pages, and thirty chapters, Salam surpasses all the cultural taboos known  in the Arab-Islamic world. Narrating in details his early years of adolescence, the secret relations with neighbors, whether boys or girls, the adventurous life of daring narrative that approached fiction in its fantasies, remembered when he reached sixty seven years old, is a brave & courageous attempt, culminating a series of novels & novellas (12 in numbers) that depicted his  life,  as a child, a revolutionary, a disappointed vagabond, a soldier, a lover, a thief stealing from neighbors’ gardens, or as a voyeur at newly married couples,  a passionate lover of his father & mother- although punished severely by them for his behavior , who died without his ability to see them, & tens of episodes documenting his experiences in prisons, on mountains, in exile, in hospitals: an autobiography that is rare as a genre in the Arab region. Writers in the west payed  huge price when writing  about such forbidden subjects, as Flaubert’s  “Madame Bovary” written  in 1856 & the storm of critics he faced by public prosecutors who attacked the novel for obscenity. Before his death, Edward Said as well faced critique from family when he wrote his biography “Out of Place” because of few sentences touching upon “taboos” among the family. Although novelists in the west became accustomed to hundreds of stories about the ancient sexual taboos, this genre of books is still among the most forbidden nowadays in 2023,  especially in Iraq where the novel is  published.

With this novel, with the only sentence that is repeated by his father when he refused to discuss any thing further issues with his wife or the family: Don’t Speak Stop: دُونْت سبيك أسطب   Salam showed the harsh naked realities of the majority of silent people, not only in Iraq, but in all the region as well.    

كتب الكاتب والباحث الفلسطيني
محمود عيسى قراءة مكثفة بالانكليزية عن “دونت سبيك أسطب” على صفحته الخاصة بالنيت
بعثتها للصديق الروائي والناقد عمار الثويني فقام بترجمتها واشار لي بوضع الترجمة مع النص الإنكليزي شكرا عمار الحبيب على جهدك
واسعدني انطباعك وتقييمك محمود عيسى
فمنظورك عربي لنص عراقي
احييكما بمحبة:
النص العربي
من خلال هذه الرواية الجديدة المكونة من 444 صفحة، وثلاثين فصلا، يتجاوز سلام كل المحظورات الثقافية المعروفة في العالم العربي الإسلامي. يروي بالتفصيل سنوات مراهقته الأولى، والعلاقات السرية مع الجيران، سواء كانوا أولادًا أو بناتًا، حياة المغامرة للسرد الجريء الذي اقترب من الخيال في أوهامه الذي يتذكره عندما بلغ السابعة والستين في محاولة شجاعة بلغت ذروتها في سلسلة من الروايات والروايات (12 عددًا) التي تصور حياته كطفل، أو ثوري، أو متشرد محبط، أو جندي، أو عاشق، أو لص يسرق من حدائق الجيران، أو كمتلصص على أزواج متزوجين حديثًا، عاشق شغوف لوالده وأمه- على الرغم من معاقبتهما بشدة لسلوكه، حيث توفيا دون قدرته على رؤيتهما، إضافة إلى عشرات الأحداث التي توثق تجاربه في السجون وفي الجبال وفي المنفى وفي المستشفيات: سيرة ذاتية هي نادر كنوع في المنطقة العربية. دفع الكتاب في الغرب ثمنًا باهظًا عند كتابتهم عن موضوعات محظورة، مثل “مدام بوفاري” لفلوبير الذي كتب عام 1856 فواجهت عاصفة النقاد من قبل المدعين العامين الذين هاجموا الرواية بسبب الفحش. وقبل وفاته، واجه إدوارد سعيد أيضًا انتقادات من أسرته عندما كتب سيرته الذاتية “في غير محله” بسبب بعض الجمل التي تتناول “المحرمات” بين أفراد الأسرة. على الرغم من أن الروائيين في الغرب اعتادوا على مئات القصص عن المحرمات الجنسية القديمة، مازال هذا النمط من الكتب هو الأكثر ممنوعًا في الوقت الحاضر في عام 2023 ، خاصة في العراق حيث تنشر الرواية.
يكشف سلام في هذه الرواية ، وعبر الجملة الوحيدة التي يكررها والده عندما يرفض مناقشة أي شيء آخر مع زوجته أو العائلة: دُونْت سبيك أسطب الحقائق العارية القاسية لغالبية الناس: الصمت ليس فقط في العراق ، ولكن في كل المنطقة أيضًا.

A Comment on “The shadow of the Sun-My African Life”; Ryszard Kapuscinski


Reading this wonderful piece of reporting on Africa’s coups, independence, poverty, colonial theft, massacres, ethnic and tribal struggles &  African deposits rulers , covering almost fourty years of a continent, that barely called Africa-only for convenience, raised the reader to the spheres of literature  rather than mere journalist reporting-with its lyrical style, in depth passionate approach and total love to the people in-person, whether a driver, or accompany or a hazardous  friend he accidentally met. “In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist”, the author wrote. 

Another writer of the same status, to me at  least, and originally from the same Polish heritage, Joseph Conrad, approached the same African Continent, almost a century ago- 1898, but purely with literary terms-namely: Heart of Darkness”.  kurtz, with his “horror, horror” last breathe,  “exterminate  all the brutes”, and bombarding the “wilderness”, to control the un-controlable, and conquer the un-conquerable;  the latter is echoing the former. It seemed that nothing has changed in the colonial mentality, whether it is nowadays,  one century ago, or since the Renaissance & Enlightment that took place in Europe-five centuries ago- since  the invention of “the Here and the Elsewhere”, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot, called it in his book: “Global Transformations-Anthropology and the modern world”. The North Atlantic -“the West”-shaped  a “Savage slot”, a space for the “inherently other”, the “Elsewhere” , while they stand for the Utopia & Order, the global legitimation & the claim to universal legitimacy. Anthropology was created as a discipline to specialize in the occupants of the savage. to satisfy the geography of the imagination of the North Atlantic & their ideal Utopia, as the Haitian-American  writer Trouillot argued. 

Reading Ryszard, Conrad & Trouillot is a necessity full of enjoyment and widening the horizon for us to embrace the Continental horrors of the modern world. Reading the reporting on Rwanda’s massacres between the Tutsis and the Hutus & how the earlier Colonial power, the Belgians interfered to help one tribe against the other in order to control the situation, with a result of almost one million were massacred. One note on the Palestine-Israel conflict by the author proved his inadequate info on the origins of the conflict, especially that majority of original native Palestinians were ethnically uprooted, with help from World Powers, East & West. 

In nineteenth century, at Berlin conference, the European powers met in 1884 to divide Africa among themselves using a bizarre notion: “that their possessions on this a continent be arranged in a straight line with territorial continuity. London wanted to have such a line stretching north to south, i.e., from Cairo to Cape Town, and Paris wanted wanted it from from west to east, i.e., from Dakar to Djibouti”, P.177…..I will not comment on the more bizarre & absurd notion of the village FASHODA where the two divisive lines met  & who came first, the British or the French  should own it….. The same colonial policies were implemented to divide the Arab Region, including Palestine, between France & Britain in 1916 in what is known as Sykes-Picot agreements. It was zig-zag line. Not as that of Africa. What a common farce!!!!