I'jaam: an Iraqi rhapsody
Hear an interview with Sinan Antoon on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show | PRI's "The World" | Democracy Now!An inventory of the General Security headquarters in central Baghdad reveals an obscure manuscript. Written by a young man in detention, the prose moves from prison life, to adolescent memories, to frightening hallucinations, and what emerges is a portrait of life in Saddam’s Iraq.
In the tradition of Kafka’s The Trial, or Orwell’s 1984, I’jaam offers an insight into life under an oppressive political regime and how that oppression works. This is a stunning debut by a major young Iraqi writer-in-exile.
Praise for I'jaam:
"He evokes a Baghdad heavy with Orwellian overtones . . . often he strikes the right chord, to haunting effect." – The Village Voice
" . . . a fictional memoir — of a student/poet in solitary detention for having ridiculed Saddam Hussein. . . . The student's dreams, memories and fantasies are eerily beautiful — he enters a reality far preferable to the one he has lived in for most of his life." – Los Angeles Times
"I'jaam denotes the practice of adding dots to letters of the Arabic alphabet to alter phonetic value. If dots are omitted, words can become ambiguous or inappropriate for their contexts. The young man who wrote the manuscript whose transcription is this chilling short novel omitted dots, and so a song about the "great Leader" concludes with a phrase that translates one letter differently from "tucks us into bed. . . . The prisoner intersperses terse reports of his ordeal among memories of a literary rebellion, friendship and love." – Booklist
"In less than a hundred pages, Antoon provides a moving portrait of life in Saddam's Iraq. When asked in a 2005 interview if he categorizes himself as an exile or a refugee, Antoon replied, 'Categories…are ill-suited for encompassing the complexities of our world. They are akin to lines on shores that are incessantly erased by the ebb and flow of reality.'"– Poets and Writers Magazine
"Sinan Antoon writes with an assurance of voice, a clear redefinition of form and narrative, and compelling and beautiful language. Iraqi in origin, but global in its scope, this book is deeply human." – Chris Abani, author of The Virgin of Flames and GraceLand
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Othemts - LibraryThing
This short book is set in Saddam Hussein's Iraq and purports to be the memoir of a student who ends up as a political prisoner. The conceit of the novel is that the i'jaam - dots added to Arabic ... Read full review
I'JAAM: An Iraqi RhapsodyUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
A manuscript found in Baghdad's Directorate of General Security recalls life under Saddam Hussein's regime.I'jaam, explains Iraqi expatriate Antoon in a prefatory note, is the Arabic word used to ... Read full review