Today on the blog, the debut offering from Shahad Al Rawi, translated by Luke Leafgren. A story unlike any other providing a child’s perspective on war, friendship, political upheaval and security in
The Baghdad Clock
Unlike anything I have read, there is a lyricism and poetic flow to this tale, narrated by a young Iraqi girl as she remembers her life before and the struggles and changes during the first Iraqi war in 1991. Solidly presented within her neighborhood – we see how lovely and wonderful life was before the bombings started, even with sanctions, there was a sense of community and surety that felt universal – the girls had dreams and stutter moments when encountering boys they liked, danced at weddings and for no reason at all, and even went on adventures and were able to appreciate the small wonders that are so palpable and present when you are a child. And then – things changed almost overnight…..
Buildings disappear in the middle of the night, bombs are dropping, people are scared – and people are missing. Huddled together for safety our narrator meets Nadia, and the two find comfort in sharing their stories of dreams, hopes and possibilities. Soon best friends, there are few things they haven’t shared: armed soldiers patrolling the streets, neighbors and family gone in an instant, the struggles, fear and even deprivations as war drags on and on…..
Throughout the tale, the use of metaphor, dream interpretation, soothsayers and references to the ‘then’ helped build both the narrative and the sense of place for readers, the then and now, and showing the ease with which the children have adapted to the new normal, while not ever quite understanding the why, resolving the ‘fairness’ of their situation, and even grieving for those lost. With the sense of never-ending conflict and strife that is the overwhelming force in changing and limiting dreams and desires for all, there are decisions about future and past, dream and reality, hopes and potential that present readers with a sense that no child, indeed no people, should have to develop the resiliency shown here. Emotionally the story tears at your heart, while descriptions and a touch of magic seem to weave the story in technicolor tapestry, demanding you read on, understand and experience the world from this new perspective.
Title: The Baghdad Clock
Author: Shahad Al Rawi
Genre: Coming of Age, Literary Fiction, Middle East, Setting: Iraq
Published by: Oneworld Publications
Published on: 3 May, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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Longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2018
For fans of The Kite Runner comes this remarkable debut, the number one bestselling title in Iraq, Dubai and the UAE
Baghdad, 1991. In the midst of the first Gulf War, a young Iraqi girl huddles with her neighbours in an air raid shelter. There, she meets Nadia. The two girls quickly become best friends and together they imagine a world not torn apart by civil war, sharing their dreams, their hopes and their desires, and their first loves. But as they grow older and the bombs continue to fall, the international sanctions bite and friends begin to flee the country, the girls must face the fact that their lives will never be the same again.
This poignant debut novel will spirit readers away to a world they know only from the television, revealing just what it is like to grow up in a city that is slowly disappearing in front of your eyes, and showing how in the toughest times, children can build up the greatest resilience.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.