War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction

The Iraqi war canon has been overtaken by American military accounts. US military titles have been published and promoted with regularity while war literature by Iraqi authors has consistently been ignored or left untranslated. In Iraqi literature, the occupation is presented as almost an exclusively American event. Post-occupation Iraqi fiction, or post-2003 fiction, is largely absent from the literary accounts of the war in the US. This is why Ikram Masmoudi’s War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, published this year, is a necessary and welcome intervention.

Masmoudi addresses this dearth by revealing how post-occupation fiction by Iraqis represents “their relation to war and sovereign power”, not only in relation to the “new Iraq” but also in a broad historical context. She reveals that the post-2003 Iraqi war canon is made up not only of US occupation literature, but also addresses the “Ba’athification” of culture, particularly since the seventies, the Iran-Iraq War in the eighties and the 1991 Gulf War, as well as the latest US invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to Masmoudi, this new crop of post-2003 literature taking on issues from decades past is a natural (albeit delayed) result of the Saddam era of censorship. And, while writers sometimes engaged in auto-censorship by cloaking controversial writing in mythology and symbols to get past the censors, much literature was effectively repressed until the fall of the Saddam regime. When the pressure valve was lifted, many past phenomena were given a platform, like accounts of desertion during the Iran-Iraq War.

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