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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Writing Iraq

Thoughtful and articulate piece by Pankaj Mishra in Saturday's Guardian Review on new books about the US invasion of Iraq. Non-fiction books, that is, mainly by journalists. Mishra compares their output to the major, and more incriminatory/inflammatory, books published contemporaneous to the Vietnam war -- it would be interesting to take his argument further, and discuss the novels and poetry emerging from and about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. One notable difference is that the major novels about Vietnam published in the US -- like Tim O'Brien's The Things We Carried (and the almost 600 others listed in Sandra Wittman's 1989 bibliography Writing about Vietnam) -- were written by Americans, but writers such as the Iraqi journalist Iqbal al-Qazwini, are giving an alternative perspective. Just as blogs by Riverbend and Salam Pax offered much-needed insight (and balance) to mainstream reporting of the situation in Iraq, so books like al-Qazwini's Zubaida's Window, which is published in English by the Feminist Press at CUNY, are an immediate and important counterweight to what -- as Gregory Cowie points out in the NY Times books blog -- is complete silence from American novelists where the invasion of Iraq is concerned.

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