Finally! Dreaming of Baghdad by Haifa Zangana is the kind of book I hate and love. I love it because it’s honest, direct, powerful, and true. I hate it because it’s honest, direct, powerful, and true; basically because it’s true. We live in world where this is reality. Zangana has written a book about her days as a political activist fighting the Baath regime. Not an easy ask, and so much harder just because Zangana is a woman.
It is never a pleasure to read about another person suffering, and it does not get better when that someone is been tortured in prisons in Iraq. The author says it took her eight years to write this book, and she had constant nightmares about her past during these years. It must have been an extremely tough task to do, but probably also a relief when it was finally done.
“When I awoke I was in a small room, empty except for an old sofa. One of the windows faced a high fence; I must have been in the south wing of the palace. The floor tiles were stained with dried blood, which I tried to scrape off with the toe of my shoe and push to the other side of the room. Despite terrible pain, I kept on trying.” I like the language in the book. It is somehow so pure, and easy, and at the same time poetic.
The confusing thing about this book is that it’s not a straight forward story timewise, and the randomness of the story makes it at times hard to follow. Surprisingly enough this did not bother me as much as it usually does in cases like this. Another strange, albeit interesting thing is how the author writes about her dreams. The book was written awhile after all this had happened, which might explain the randomness. I guess I would dream as much as possible if I were imprisoned in hell.
In this short book there is a third quirky detail. Zangana writes her story in both first and third person. She is such a strong woman who followed her heart and brain fearlessly against the impossible. Being a political activist anywhere can lead to unexpected happenings, but being a political activist in Iraq will sure lead you into more than difficult situations, and how many of us would be willing to actually do it, and live with the consequences?