Thursday, November 5, 2009

Literary Bite: The Poet of Baghdad

I think that my absolute favorite genre of books is historical fiction – “based on a true story,” if you will. Historical fiction gives the author license to be creative in the story-telling, so there is usually more of a narrative than in a straight-up history book. But that narrative is set in a historically accurate context, which I feel makes it more credible and enjoyable.

For example, this week I am reading The Poet of Baghdad by Jo Tatchell (formerly known as Nabeel’s Song). It is the story of Nabeel Yasin, one of Iraq's greatest poets of the 20th century. The book traces his life from childhood, pre-Saddam Hussein, through the dicatator’s oppressive rule. Yasin is eventually forced to flee Iraq to avoid imprisonment and persecution. So in some ways, this book could be considered a biography…the line between historical fiction and biography are quite blurry. The Poet of Baghdad is the story of one person’s live, written by someone else – so in that sense, it is biography. But I lean towards the historical fiction classification because the book is heavy on diolog and personal story-lines, which the author could not possibly know for a fact.

If you already know about the history of Iraq and the rise of Saddam Hussein (go you!), then you will enjoy this book for the way it adds a personal story to your historical knowledge. (One of the reasons I like historical fiction so much is that it makes the sometimes dry history that I’ve learned come alive and become memorable.)

For the majority of people out there, who know little to nothing about the history of the Middle East, I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the history of Iraq, and an insight into its culture.

For More Info:
Check out this short BBC film.
For a brief summary and review, check out this site.
For a podcast interview with Nabeel Yasin and Jo Tatchell, thank you NPR. 

I have not yet had the chance to experiment with Iraqi food...BUT I definitely plan on doing so soon. I love all Middle Eastern and Indian-types of food. Mmmmm, lentils, rice, eggplant, stews, flat bread...sooooo gooooodddd!

If you want to get a head start, here are some links to Iraqi bloggers:
Recipe for Chicken Taghrib (a stew common throughout the Middle East - pictured right)