Review: I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon

I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody

by Sinan Antoon

City Lights Publishers, 2007

“Pentimento” is a fine descriptor for Sinan Antoon’s layered novella, one that incorporates a young student’s gritty and terrifying incarceration, poetic and beautifully rendered romantic memories, and recollections on life under Saddam Hussein’s harsh totalitarian regime. The text whirls between joy, humor, sadness, horror, and fear; dipping in and out of what the protagonist is experiencing or has experienced; blurring the lines between past, present, reality, dreams, and hallucinations. The evocative first line: “Two clouds kissed silently in the Baghdad sky” soon collides with the line uttered by a member of the secret police: “If you move again, I swear to God I’ll crush your teeth.” This is a rhapsody to the author’s country as it once was, to the proud spirit of the Iraqi people, yet it is also a cry of profound grief, as Antoon has witnessed his nation being trampled by dictators and its riches plundered. The work is powerful and complex, authentic and honest, a devastating warning. –Laury A. Egan


About Laury A. Egan

The author of two mystery/romances: "The Ungodly Hour" and "A Bittersweet Tale;" a YA novel, "The Outcast Oracle" (A Kirkus Reviews "Best Book of 2013"); "Fog and Other Stories;'" a psychological suspense novel, "Jenny Kidd;" and a madcap comedy, "Fabulous! An Opera Buffa." Forthcoming in 2021: "The Swimmer," a literary work. Poetry: two full-length collections: "Snow, Shadows, a Stranger" and "Beneath the Lion's Paw;" and two chapbooks, "The Sea & Beyond" and "Presence & Absence," all issued in limited editions. For many years, she worked as a senior designer and administrator for Princeton University Press and later as a freelancer for 20 publishers.
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