Book Review: Sinan Antoon pays tribute to war’s forgotten losses

The book is written by Sinan Antoon. (Supplied)
Updated 16 June 2019
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Book Review: Sinan Antoon pays tribute to war’s forgotten losses

  • The story follows the life of introspective academic Nameer Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi living in the US
  • It was written by internationally celebrated author Sinan Antoon

CHICAGO: Out of Baghdad comes “The Book of Collateral Damage” by internationally celebrated author Sinan Antoon, whose fourth novel follows the life of introspective academic Nameer Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi living in the US. An encounter in Baghdad with an eccentric bookseller while travelling with documentary filmmakers as a translator leads Nameer to a manuscript that forces him to explore memories of the past, the loss of his home and the destruction caused by war.

The year is 2003 and Nameer is moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to teach at Dartmouth. Before moving, he travels back to Iraq for the first time since 1993. Encountering his old home, his relatives and the streets he used to travel, Nameer finds himself at a bookseller’s shop on Al-Mutannabi Street. The stall owner, Wadood, hands him a manuscript in which he has documented everything destroyed by war, from inanimate objects, to people to the flora and fauna. Intrigued by Wadood’s book, he takes it back to the US with him and finds himself suddenly consumed by it.

Through Nameer, Antoon takes his readers on a journey that is profound and deeply rooted in Iraq and its culture. From classical poetry collections and the last days of Abbasid-era caliph Harun Al-Rashid, to the Kashan rugs made in Iraq and sold as if from Iran to the Ziziphus tree — all have witnessed the destruction caused by war. Wadood’s cataloging of “the losses that are never mentioned or seen. Not just people. Animals and plants and inanimate things and anything that can be destroyed” are painfully explored.

The first-person narrative allows Antoon to bring to life an intense sense of heartbreak that inevitably follows political turmoil and devastation. There is a back and forth in his novel between Nameer and Wadood’s manuscript — narratives that parallel to one another. And there is a magical realism as he personifies inanimate objects who feel love and sorrow, who feel their own deaths when bombs fall down on them and fires engulf them. Tragedy befalls the lives of people who are victims of power, but also befalls objects that are the collateral damage of powerful people’s wars.


Rapper 50 cent embraces Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah World Fest with playful name change tweet

The ‘Power’ star joked about changing his name to “50 HALALA.” (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019
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Rapper 50 cent embraces Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah World Fest with playful name change tweet

DUBAI:  US rapper 50 Cent took Twitter by surprise as he teased fans with a joke about a potential name change.

The ‘Power’ star joked about changing his name to “50 HALALA.”

This was after the rapper was added to Jeddah World Fest’s line-up in Saudi Arabia.

Tweeps took to the cheeky tweet by storm, replying with warm messages like “welcome to Saudi 50 HALALA.”

Another Saudi fan wrote, “many thanks 50 Halala.”

The music sensation told his 10 million followers, “I been around the world a few times there’s no place [like] JEDDAH.”

He also shared his experience at the festival with excited fans and wrote, “I had a ball at Jeddah fest, kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The music festival is part of the Jeddah Season of activities which falls under the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage’s (SCTH) ambitious program of seasonal entertainment for the Kingdom.