Al Sheikh Al Jabeli’s Journeys: Iraqi Fiction in Translation

by    /  February 7, 2011  / No comments

Translated by Fadhil Abbas Al Musawi

In Hameed Al-Mukhtaar’s short story, a reporter searches for an elusive holy man in the labyrinthine back alleyways of an unnamed Iraqi city.

Bagdad-based editor and Sampsonia Way contributor Sohiel Najm sees this as a text that braids together two different traditions of Iraqi fiction. “He mixes old tradition that is rhetorical and mystic with the modern suggestive style,” Najm writes from Bagdad via email. That suggestive style is preserved in Fadhil Abbas Al Musawi’s able translation.

According to Najm, Al-Mukhtaar does something that few contemporary Iraqi writers do: he illuminates the mystic and spiritual life of people on the margins.

It is also a story that warrants multiple readings. “We can read this story as a political story since we learn indirectly that the people like Al-Jabeli  are against the political system,” Najm writes, referring to the character of the holy man. “At the same time we can discover a mythological believe many people have in this region. We can add of course the psychological view in the idea of sex suppression and the anthropological view…”

Al-Mukhtaar has been widely published in Iraq, where he is also the editor of Ashabakah. This is his first story published in English.

Read Al Sheik Al Jabeli’s Journeys

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