When the Bush administration first started threatening to invade Iraq, many Americans had little idea of what life inside Iraq was like. Unfortunately, the novel I'jaam, which takes place in Iraq in the 1980s, had not yet been published in English. Reading it reveals the torture, brutality, and complete control that Iraqis endured under Saddam Hussein's rule. The novel is meant to be the writing of a young man who was detained in one of Hussein's prisons during the Iran-Iraq war. The prisoner, in an attempt to render his writings incomprehensible to any jailers who might find it, leaves out all of the i'jaam—the dots used in Arabic writing—from his manuscript, making it, he believes, understandable only to himself. In this narrative, which floats between past and present with precise words and scenes, Antoon often plays on this theme of the limitations of language and understanding. What is perhaps most striking about this novel is that in spite of the harsh conditions of Hussein-controlled Iraq that he reveals through the story, Antoon maintains that Iraqis are much worse off under U.S. occupation.
Fri., Nov. 2, 7 p.m., 2007