Lutfi al-Dulaimi: The Seduction of the Storyteller


At nine years of age, Lutfi al-Dulaimi (1939) crept into the “taboo room”, and she has not yet emerged from it. The discovery of an old copy of the book “One Thousand and One Nights” on one of the shelves of the bookcase or “the collection of all the hobbies” led her to the magic of reading and the narration of narration in order to trace Sherazade and the magical power of words. In her literary biography, “Disobedience to Commandments: A Writer Wandering in the Regions of Writing” (Dar Al-Mada), the well-known Iraqi novelist and translator recalls the first thresholds of writing as “a watchtower we enjoyed discovering what worries us of existence and confusion as it crosses the paths of this troubled world.” The writer, who opened her childhood on the banks of the Diyala River, among the fruits of orchards and the fruits of books, was picking words from the air, as well as the fruits of figs from the antique tree in the middle of the house. Thus was the descendant of the Mesopotamian civilization and the epic of Gilgamesh and Babylonian anthems, devouring the books with appetite and thirst, as if they belonged to a “water dynasty”: “the lineage of those Sumerians descending to the delta of rivers from a lost paradise.” Thus, I found in the books “a lifeboat that separates us from the transit and the obsolescent.” In her childhood, she was not seduced by the father’s communist library, nor by the male episodes in her surroundings. She got involved in reading Albert Camus, Sartre and Simon Dubuvoir, the moment the 1960s generation in the Arab world clashed with existential philosophy, before turning toward heritage books and the magic of world novels. Later, in her book “The Book of Monologues”, a constellation of great novelists in fictional dialogues such as Nikos Kazantazaki, Hermann Hesse and Gabriel García Márquez, those who influenced her conscience, will survive in an endless fondness for the novel and books. In her latest novel, “Lovers, Phonographs, and Times” (2016), she recalls the history of the “Al-Kutbakhani” family through a tale of love, in parallel with the history of Iraq from the beginning of the twentieth century until after the American occupation of Iraq (2003), in a huge river novel that explores the conditions of modernity. And its defeat under the weight of transformations and calamities that afflicted Mesopotamian culture. The owner of “Saturn Ladies” travels between different creative fields, from story to novel, to diaries and translation, against the background of her interest in music, painting, physics and theater. In recent years, she has been engaged in translating everything related to the novel, in dialogues with the most prominent international novelists: “novel physics and music of philosophy”, “novels that I love” and “the voices of the novel”, in addition to the memoirs of “Tony Morrison: a brief biography of a brave writer” . She reduces her life and writings by saying: “I remained and am still listening and writing only, and I only speak when necessary, for this I cannot be a social being or a face on the media, and I have always wandered in my thoughts while the sea of ​​buzzing language drowns me in words.”


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