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

The book is written by Sinan Antoon. (Supplied)
Updated 16 June 2019

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.

Nicole Scherzinger wows in Georges Chakra design

Updated 24 November 2020

Nicole Scherzinger wows in Georges Chakra design

DUBAI: Singer and television show host Nicole Scherzinger was spotted wearing a design from our neck of the woods this week to promote the hit show “The Masked Singer.”

The “Don’t Cha” hitmaker, who serves as a judge on the show alongside singer Robin Thicke, comedian Ken Jeong and model Jenna McCarthy, wowed viewers with a white, statement-making Georges Chakra pant suit from the Lebanese designer’s Spring 2019 couture collection.

The look boasted a plunging blazer with metallic details on the shoulders and sleeves and a cascading train. She paired the top with coordinating white, flared trousers. Scherzinger  elevated the look with a dusting of metallic, eye-popping powder across her lids to compliment her ensemble.

Chakra is one of Lebanon’s top couture designers. His gowns have graced runways in Paris and red carpets in Hollywood, while the entertainment industry’s top talent like Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Lopez and Letitia Wright regularly don his creations.  His designs have even been featured in films and television shows like “Gossip Girl” – Blake Lively’s character Serena van der Woodsen tied the knot in a dramatic strapless tulle gown designed Chakra in the show’s series finale. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug.4 Beirut explosion, Chakra didn’t unveil his Fall 2021 couture collection during the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s official Haute Couture week this year, but presented it in a digital format instead.

Much like his previous collections, the Fall 2021 couture offering was an amalgamation of expert tailoring, volume, ruffles, traces of lamé and rich fabrics such as lace, velour de soie, silk organza and gazar.

Meanwhile, Scherzinger isn’t the only A-lister to champion the Lebanese couturier in recent weeks. 

Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen was recently spotted wearing an all-white ensemble at a Pennsylvania rally for president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris’ election campaign where her husband John Legend was performing. 

The look featured a tailored Chloe blazer worn over a bodysuit paired with a tulle tiered skirt from Chakra’s Fall 2020 couture collection. 

The designer’s creations also found a fan in British actress Kate Beckinsale, who recently attended this year’s Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health in Monaco wearing a white, asymmetric gown, which was plucked from the designer’s Fall 2019 couture collection.