miércoles, 29 de marzo de 2017

About: "Dates on My Fingers". By Rati Parker

"Dates on My Fingers"

Rati Parker
        "Dates on My Fingers".....my first thought....a curious  title for a novel!... But not really...! considering it's a novel about rural Iraq, written by an Iraqi writer, Muhsin Al-Ramli

For some years now, we have read many wonderful books of, and pertaining to, the Arab world, at Kutub Bilarabi, our Arab-Anglo Book Group. "Dates on my Fingers" has definitely emerged as one of my favourites!

"Late for Tea at the Deer Palace", another wonderful book about the life and times of the privileged, wealthy and politically powerful Chalabi family, written by Tamara Chalabi, tells us about their glorious lifestyle in Iraq and subsequent lifestyle in exile, equally luxurious but angst ridden, with a longing for "home"....(
 http://ratiparker.blogspot.ae/2012/11/isnt-it-coincidence-that-we-are.html )

"Dates on My Fingers" is in contrast, the story of two men (father and son), from the rural Iraqi desert... brought up without the trappings of modernity or education.....their lives controlled and guided by a parochial, but benign "head of the family". Their minds took shape and form in a milieu in which an "eye for eye" was a norm; revenge was mandated and blessed  by the parochial patriarch and sanctified by selective religious interpretation....

As chance would have it, both father an son, Noah and Saleem sought asylum ( though separately and unknown to the other) in Spain. After a series of bloody and gruesome killings of the young men of their village, and the ensuing death of his father, Noah offered to divorce his wife (Saleem's mother), and left the village, severing all ties with his home and family permanently. Saleem too, after suffering the loss of his beloved Aliya in a drowning incident, left Iraq for Spain, uncertain about what life held for him....

Ten years on, struggling in his lonely exile, Saleem meets his father again.... now the Bohemian owner of a boisterous and thriving night club, with a Spanish girlfriend! Unable to reconcile this extrovert, loud, earringed apparition sporting hair streaked red and green; with the volatile, parochial but loving father he had known in Iraq; Saleem had many unanswered questions, both from the past and in the present!

Notwithstanding, his Bohemian lifestyle and Spanish Christian girlfriend, Noah's parochial, rural Arab Muslim  past manifested itself in small ways. The fact that the teller girl at the night club, Fatima, had to memorise a set of Suras from the Quran to keep her job...... In addition, Saleem discovered that he still carried the bullet, which was a constant reminder of the revenge he had sworn to his father that he would seek to restore the honour of their family. The Iraqi official, who had committed the atrocities on his family was posted in the Iraqi Embassy in Madrid. It was Noah's life's mission to "shove" the bullet it up the guy!

Saleem ... and the reader are left confused by this bundle of contradictions that is  Noah..... which one is real.....? Saleem aware of the significance of the bullet is keen that Noah should give up the desire for revenge.

Noah, on the other hand seems to be a tortured individual. Inspite of the free spirited, lovable, popular persona he presented ( Which to me seemed the REAL essence of the man) to the world.... an almost Pavlovian pull kept tugging him back to the parochial, revenge seeking conditioning he had received as a young boy and man.

Opinion was divided... Optimistic, positive Maha felt he would let go.....a lot many more of us thought he would seek his revenge.....

And yes... you are right about the sexual connotation of the title.... "Dates on My Fingers"......they were smeared all over!! :)

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