By Alys Zaerin
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Dreaming of Baghdad

This article is over 12 years, 5 months old
Haifa Zangana, Feminist Press, £11.99
Issue 345

Dreaming of Baghdad collates literary work originally serialised in English and Arabic in the early 1990s. It is based on Haifa Zangana’s personal recollections of incarceration, torture, exile and relentless political activism both inside and outside Iraq.

Knowing too well the cruel irony of George W Bush’s “occupation for liberation” and its continued use of torture has a hard-hitting impact.

Reading accounts of torture is simultaneously unbearable and absorbing. Zangana uses a number of different techniques to convey her story: for example she refers to the protagonist (herself) in either the first or third person at different points in the book, offering the reader a multi-dimensional panorama.

I particularly enjoyed the sections in which Zangana relates dreams that she had during what, I assume, must have been one of the most difficult times of her life – imprisoned in Abu Ghraib. Describing her dreams as vividly as the other events provides a surrealist blush to the work.

Overall, the experiences described within the pages of this book are haunting and sombre. But there is also, at points, a tender and elevating humour, which one can only possibly find in real-life situations.

I hope that the implication of the book’s title is that there is a future to dream and plan for Iraq, not merely an escape into the subconscious – one free from imperialism, dictatorship and torture. Enthusiastically recommended.

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