Love and Loss: An Iran-Iraq Story

By: 
Bobby Gulshan

For those unaccustomed to witnessing the daily, random bombardments of cities during a bloody conflict like the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, it would be hard to imagine the lives of those who actually endured those experiences.

 
For those unaccustomed to witnessing the daily, random bombardments of cities during a bloody conflict like the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, it would be hard to imagine the lives of those who actually endured those experiences. The novel “A Portal in Space” (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2015), by Mahmoud Saeed, allows readers to feel, share, and interact with the ordinary people living in war-plagued Basra, Iraq. You cannot help but feel connected to the characters as they struggle to cope with their worries, fears, and despair. The intimacy of the novel turns the reader into a member of Mundhir’s small family. Mundhir, a righteous judge, loses his son Anwar, just after his graduation from university as an engineer. At this time, Iraqi law requires that university graduates serve two years in the army, and Mundhir’s son disappears only two months after his conscription. Anwar's disappearance and the uncertainty concerning his fate devastates his mother, who suffers an emotional breakdown bordering on madness, while his sister runs away from home with the first opportunity. Meanwhile, Mundhir becomes a living corpse, resigning from his job, and traveling on a weekly basis to Baghdad in search of news about his son from a United Nations agency, hoping against hope to read Anwar’s name in the list of the prisoners taken by Iran. Throughout all the worries, bewilderment, and destruction, Mundhir finds a widow in Baghdad also searching for a lost relative, now held prisoner. She awakens a love that alleviates the judge’s pain, but cannot heal the tragedy of his missing son. Mr. Bobby Gulshan reviews “A Portal in Space” in forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 20, No. 71, 2016.

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