1. Briefly introduce the book by title and author, and summarize the novel (1-2 paragraphs)
The title of the book is I'Jaam written by Sinan Antoon who is an Iraqi-born poet, novelist, film maker and assistant professor at New York University. I'jaam explains Iraqi expatriate Antoon life in his country. The dots used clarify a words meaning where I'jaam means elucidating, which in simple language means clarifying. The document unfolds a series of government-regulated life, where Furat the author of the manuscript who is a poet and also a literature student in Baghdad, has a limp that makes him unfit for service in the in the Army.
Despite this he feels the effects of Saddam's dictatorship in many ways. The only guardian he has his grandmother who raised him after he was left an orphan due to his parents' massacre, together with his girlfriend Areej ask him to comply with the authorities but he gets tough times trying to study and live under such conditions. The government later arrests him for using newspapers with pictures of Sadam as toilet paper. The manuscript he wrote swings around his account of life in prison, hopeful hallucinations of meeting with his grandmother and his girlfriend Areej who he has seen for a while since he was imprisoned.
2. Briefly introduce and summarize the interview by title and author.
The interview is between Sinan Antoon and a journalist who works for the fire house studio where they discuss the issue of U.S occupation of Iraq, his novel the I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, and more of his poetry works. Amy Goodman asks what the meaning of I'jaam is, Antoon responds by saying that its a word that its a word that has double meanings, antithetical meanings that have to do with the Arab script because initially the Arab script was without dots. To avoid ambiguity in interpretation the people suggested that dots should be included in the document and hence dotting had to be borrowed from a foreign language, it hence came to have double meanings. Amy Goodman asks if the the novel is about a prisoner under Saddam Hussein and San Antoon replies yes. Amy Goodman asks him to tell the story about that prisoner and he clearly describes how the Furat is captured and taken into prison by government security officers, but he doesn't know the reason for him being there in the 1st place. He gets tortured, and is given a paper by one of the guards and asked to write. He thinks its a way of torturing him further but then he decides to write in Arabic without dots since its only he who can understand it and no one can implicate him. Its his attempt to reconstruct his memory and remember about being outside the prison, and also in order to maintain his sanity inside the prison which is a major problem for most of the prisoners
Amy Goodman asks about the times through which the book covers, Antoon answers by saying, that he should 1st point out the fact that the novel was finished even before the war started and was then published in Arabic but it was later published in English. Antoon says he doesn't want to equate dictator ship with military occupation, but from the standpoint of most Iraqis, the great majority of Iraqis, things only become worse. Quoting another Iraqi who said, you know, Everything that was good, that existed here in Iraq, in its initial good structure in the system was destroyed by the U.S, and everything that was not too bad made worse.
3. Choose one quote from the interview that you find particularly interesting and important, and write an essay applying the ideas in the quote to particular moments in the novel.
It was very shocking to see the actual destruction, not just of the war, but also to the social fabric of Iraq. The destruction of the community which made up Iraq was initiated by Saddam as he was assisted by the U.S government but the crucial factor is the sanctions issued for 13 years. Antoon said in the interview. University classes are usually interrupted with no good cause at all but for the students to attend official events. The people of Iraq are fighting against U.S military occupation of their country in many ways, but the face of media houses of course does not have time to cover that but instead they primarily set focus on the suicide bombing and the terrorist activities that take place in Iraq. There are in fact many incidents on a daily basis of Iraqi men and women fighting against U.S occupation due to cases of rape, torture and looting of property which is according to the U.N human rights commission is their right. This is old colonial style: When its too expensive, you let the natives butcher each other, let the natives govern each other. Responded Antoon when asked to comment about the issue of U.S troops leaving Iraq. The Iraqis has no reason to put their trust in the very same nations that supported Saddam sanctions that destroyed their own country.
Although the U.N has a lot of problems to deal with they are the most suitable organization to deal with Iraq rather than the U.S. Antoon through his novel speaks out as the voice of those whose voices were robbed off from them by oppression, he stresses that literature is sometimes the only tool that can protect human experiences from falling into oblivion. Anton's razor-sharp voice rises out of the prisons and mass graves of Iraq in the era when Saddam enjoyed U.S support and no one heard these voices. This tender voice of his continues to tell us of the tales we never heard in so many lives ago during these times of endless war between nations.
City lights Published on June 15th, 2007
I'Jaam by Sinan Antoon published on August 25, 2013
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