What We Are Reading Today: Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq

Updated 20 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq

  • Al-Sadr has reinvented himself as a leader willing to campaign against corrupt government and is opposed to Iranian influence in Iraq’s affairs.

Official Iraqi election results have placed Muqtada Al-Sadr, the volatile Shiite cleric, in the position of kingmaker — a remarkable comeback for a man who once sent his militia fighters into battle with US soldiers.

Since his time fighting the US, Al-Sadr has reinvented himself as a leader willing to campaign against corrupt government and is opposed to Iranian influence in Iraq’s affairs.

This book by Patrick Cockburn offers an insight into how Al-Sadr positioned himself during the years after the US-led invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam Hussein, and examines why he is so pivotal to the future of the country.

Al-Sadr is revealed as a complex character and sophisticated politician.

As he sets about deciding who will form the next government, this maverick figure’s difficult, bloody and at times tragic past makes compelling reading. 


‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

  • Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt

CHICAGO: Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2016, Adel Esmat’s “Tales of Yusuf Tadrus” is the story of a young man from the city of Tanta that sits in the Nile Delta. Yusuf struggles to find a balance between his dream of oil painting, canvases and light with his reality of teaching English, providing for a family and attempting to understand where he stands in the world. 

Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt.

Beginning every chapter with “Yusuf Tadrus Says,” Esmat delves deep into the life of his protagonist, a young man whose very birth leaves him uneasy in life. Knowing his mother had not intended on having children and had devoted her life to God, Yusuf believes he is destined to be extraordinary and embarks on a complicated journey in art and life.

Esmat’s portrayal of Yusuf’s struggle is intimate and detailed. Yusuf is an extremely introspective, introverted character, whose world clashes with his art as it takes him from Tanta to Alexandria, back to Tanta and as far as Al-Tur.

Esmat insightfully narrates an incredible story of struggle and longing. He paints a picture of Egypt, especially Tanta, of the alley where Yusuf grew up on Ghayath Al-Din Street and his family life, his mother who collects contributions for the Holy Bible Association, and his father, Khawaga Tadrus Bushra, donning a Saidi jallabeya, a skullcap and a white scarf as he sells dry beans and seeds. Yusuf spends his childhood riding his bicycle with friends, collecting contributions with his mother, experiencing the Six-Day War and winning a painting competition that brings him to the Palace of Culture on Al-Bahr Street where he learns to draw and, eventually, paint.

Esmat creates in Yusuf a multifaceted character who is both the protagonist and antagonist in his own story, tormented between a dream and reality against the backdrop of an unforgiving society.