The Traveler and the Innkeeper by Fadhil al-Azzawi
William M. Hutchins, tr. Cairo. The American University in Cairo Press (Oxford University Press, distr.). 2011. ISBN 9789774164620
Originally published in Arabic as Madina min Ramad (Ash city), this novel of is the grim story of an Iraqi secret police inspector in 1960s Baghdad, when the Baathists were rising to power and employed the state apparatus to subdue their opponents, especially the Communists. Inspector Qasim Husayn is in charge of interrogating Jalil Mahmud, his childhood friend, who is a journalist arrested for suspected links to subversives. Torture being part of the interrogation techniques, Qasim considers himself to be protecting society from anarchy. But no measure of torture succeeds in making Jalil confess to anything but his innocence.
In the meantime, Qasim falls in love with Huda Abdul-Qadir, Jalil's wife, whom he visited occasionally to reassure her of her husband's condition. She originally initiated this affair but gradually abandons it. This increases Qasim's disillusionment with life, especially when he is temporarily suspended from his job after his inability to make Jalil confess and his superiors learned of his love affair.
While portraying the evils of the dictatorial police state, whose prisons al-Azzawi personally experienced in 1963 as a university student, he shows that both the torturing interrogator and his victim destroy each other. His lyrical descriptions of Baghdad localities and streets as well as his narrative of a love affair do not diminish the foreboding atmosphere of the novel, which opposes repression while it attempts to understand the foibles of human beings.
Issa J. Boullata
IAmerican young-adult novelist Virginia Euwer Wolff, winner of the 2011 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature, headlines the January 2012 issue of WLT.
Table of Contents
NSK Neustadt Prize Laureate
Virginia Euwer Wolff
- ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: [Excerpt] "A Case of Time-Release Insight: The 2011 NSK Prize Lecture," Virginia Euwer Wolff
- ESSAY:"The Courage to Be Compassionate: A Tribute to Virginia Euwer Wolff," Suzanne Fisher Staples
- READING LIST: "Children's Literature Favorites" by featured authors from the January issue of WLT
- "Poetic Journeys: A Conversation with Nathalie Handal," Kaitlin Bankston
- "A Brief Conversation with Laleh Khadivi"
- "Eva Stachniak," Ania Spyra
- "Post-3/11 Literature: Two Writers from Fukushima" Takeshi Kimoto
- "The Single, Shared Text? Translation and World Literature," Valerie Henitiuk
- "Burmese Poetry: Tectonic Shifts," James Byrne
- "The State of Zapotec Poetry: Can Poetry Save an Endangered Culture?," Clare Sullivan
- "Poetry Is Liberty: The Macondo Writers’ Workshop in Mexico," Wendy Call
- "In the Palace of the Dragon King," Hiromi Kawakami
- "Past-Bitterness-Recalling and Present-Sweetness-Realizing Meal," Qiu Xiaolong
- Four Poems, Nathalie Handal
- Seven Poems, Feliciano Sánchez Chan
- Zapotec Poetry: Bilingual recordings and an artists' gallery
- "Zodiac 9," Moikom Zeqo
- Six Burmese Poets
IN EVERY ISSUE
- LETTERS/EDITOR'S CHOICE
- WHAT TO READ NOW: Sri Lanka
- CITY PROFILE: Hargeisa, Somalia
- INTERNATIONAL CRIME & MYSTERY: "He Do the Police in Different Voices: The Rise of the Police Procedural"
by J. Madison Davis
- OUTPOST: Kesennuma, Japan