Dates on My Fingers: An Iraqi Novel (Modern Arabic Literature)
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Saleem, fed up with all the violence, religiosity, and strict family hierarchies of his Iraqi village, flees to Spain to establish a new life for himself. But his lonely exile is turned upside down when he encounters his father, Noah, in a Madrid nightclub after not seeing him in more than a decade. Noah looks and acts like a new man, and Saleem sets out to discover the mystery of his father's presence in Spain and his altered life. In doing so, he recalls formative moments in Iraq of familial love, war, and the haunting accidental death of his cousin Aliya, Saleem's partner in the hesitant, tender exploration of sexuality. When the renewed relationship with his father erupts in a violent conflict, Saleem is forced to rediscover his sense of self and the hard-won stability of his life. Through Saleem's experiences and reflections, the fast-paced narrative carries the reader between Spain and Iraq to a surprising resolution.
are out to pasture!” He laughed and gave my shoulder a pat that hinted at our connection. I felt then that he was closer to the father I had known in the past. It was as though the phrase about cows, spoken as a clear allusion, was a sign of all that we had shared in our distant village. I said, “I’ll go down and get some milk and cigarettes. Which kind do you want?” He pointed to the crumpled pack on the floor. “Those. Or just tell the Chinese people in the store across from the club—do you
that. Many who know me describe me that way. I sometimes think that it’s due somehow to Aliya’s effects upon me. In any case, I knew where I was going in Barcelona perfectly since I’d spent two weeks there during last year’s summer vacation. It had drawn me in with its mixture of ethnicities as well as buildings. The extremely old and the extremely modern lived side by side, regardless of when they were established. And the festive atmosphere of Las Ramblas Boulevard, which was always a delight
her, and she rushed over. We embraced. She sat down across from me, unable to contain her joy, which she emphasized by repeating, “What a surprise! My goodness, what a lovely surprise!” The waiter come over and asked, “The usual?” She nodded to him and continued telling me how happy she was. I hastened to push the bouquet of flowers over to her, which I had put on the seat next to me. They made her gush, “Ooh la la, how beautiful! Thank you so much, Saleem!” “Don’t thank me,” I said to her,
he attached a chain for his keys. I kept staring doubtfully into his face, so he quickly showed me his lame foot, after which I was certain. We embraced. When? How? Why did my father come to Madrid? This chance meeting dazed me for three days. After that, I started to regain my equilibrium as I digested the surprise, content to ignore the incomprehensible. Like how I keep returning to paintings by Salvador Dalí in order to understand reality better. After my flight from the confines of Iraq ten
example, that the Qur’an opened to the first page of the sura entitled The Night Journey when my father was born. The finger fell and indicated the verse: The descendants of those whom we carried with Noah; verily, he was a grateful servant. When my mother bore twin girls, Sundus and Istabraq, his finger fell on verse 31 of The Cave: Those people have the gardens of Eden, under which the rivers flow. Golden bracelets are bound upon them, and they wear green garments of refined silk (sundus) and