Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Where is the Iraqi War Literature?

Damascus, Asharq Al Awsat – With a few exceptions of Iraqi writers and artists, the continuous bloodshed in Iraq has failed to elicit any poetry or prose from the Arab men of letters. While political writers expounded and analyzed, the literary writers and artists did not channel this harrowing Arab tragedy into creativity, and neither did they attempt to engage with it.

(interesting article worth reading.)

 I’ve been wondering about this for a long while, from a slightly different perspective, why are there so few fiction writers translated into English? The foremost Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh has one of her seven novels available in English according to Words Without Borders. Surely publishers have a significant role to play in it.

Last year I tried to write a piece about Iraqi writers still living in Iraq, it was difficult to get any newspaper to bite on it and even harder to find writers because of communication problems. (ie. no electricity etc) and because I am a complete neophyte on the topic. Then I intended to turn it into a radio essay, but John McGahern died and his passing bumped the beleagured Iraqi writer and the essay turned to him.

I did talk to a number of exiled writers and academics who all had various takes on it, including in one opinion that there was an avoidance of Arabic literature by publishers (Western). I should dig out what I gathered and upload it to a page. At the time I felt rather out of my depth and couldn’t understand why the New York Times had not commissioned some arts journalist to go on the trail of the Iraqi writer. I remember being convinced that if everyone who marched in a protest  actually went out and purchased a translated, small press, novel, as a political gesture, it could kick start some kind of financial injection into Iraqi lit or just translated literature generally that would result in more writers having opportunities to publish. But it would have to be novels that people bought, not tomes with angry titles.

One press who had published a significant novel reviewed favourably in the NY Times admitted they had yet to raise the cash to even pay the translation bill and could barely afford to send out review copies. I realized at that point the scale of what they were up against.

Here’s a link to the Baghdad supplement that Al-Ahram did back in 2003.

The list of blue titles on the right hand side link to different essays and pieces.

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