Interview with Iraqi writer Aziz Al-Tamimi
Nadwah - Hong Kong
Interview by Naser Hajjaj (in 2000)
Translated from Arabic by Ruqaia Kanaan
Aziz Al Tamimi is an Iraqi story writer from the eighties generation, the generation who drank too bitter toasts of wars and destruction. Aziz, who tried to build for the story art its own special recitative way, took from war its doom, its futility, and its pessimism many things that framed for his stories a special taste that a reader can not miss. Al Tamimi stories are the stories of the daily life with its tragic details.
Following is an interview with him about his experiment and his latest works.
Naser: Could you please talk about your start and why you chose story?
Aziz: Writing anxiety was thickening in my sentiment. I was not at that time going in the story road. My writings were a sort of sentimental texts which I thought it satisfies my intellectual and spiritual desires. I did not take a long time before I felt the need to specify the richest and the most fertile field (literary). During my study at high school, my simple writings which I used to call poems or texts were replaced by the traditional story structure which is different than the structure known for modern story nowadays. This was my start to breathe story and go on in its way. I discovered at that time that I was talented in writing stories affected by the country environments which are known to be bitter since life in a village is controlled by traditions to the degree of terrorism. In such environment, the story used to satisfy my desire to write about philosophical views against life, behaviors of society and the psychological struggle the Iraqi human faces. It was a mix of love and fear at the same time. Loving life and fearing to exceed the limits of the tradition to externalize this love which becomes forbidden or even tragic when it discusses a reality like the Iraqi environment geography in general.
Naser: You are from the eighties generation. What are the features of this generation? What was the effect of war status on the literary products?
Aziz: Talking about the generations’ concept in literature became useless but to point to a specific period. I think ten years is not an enough period to produce specific features for an intellectual system which may lead to making and registering a point of view for the axis of reality and life.
We can say that the “eighties generation” as an _expression, refers to the generation of war in Iraq. Was the sharp struggle between standing and walking within a social and psychological area that got no longer able to stand boiling waiting? Was the war condition a knockdown that attacked the individual to urge humanity inside oneself?
I can say that the eighties period was so rich in its exciting events on the scale of events and results.
Disappointment, defeat of slogans in addition to the carelessness of governments and end of acting festivals that used to be performed heavily on the psychological and structural theater of a man memory. All that, produced an unusual explosion against the traditional act and response. This was done through the literary product. The language had abandoned its still recitative ways. Sentences tended to use motion thickening. Even the use of symbols and myths had supported the story to establish a refusing and critic status to be able to go in parallel with the oppression status. War made the literary product closer to philosophical writing and much closer to interpretation of the equation in an opened but more textile language. War caused the writers to leave the mechanical controlled form of the story. This does not mean there were no good experiments before that; the experiment of Mohammad Khdayer is a well know example for using language to guide the event. But what happened in the stories of “Hamid Mukhtar, Fadhel Qaissi, Shawqi Karim, Alia Talab and Ali Sudani” caused the language to start within new psychological and structural schemes. This, by itself, can be considered as an achievement for the eighties generation –if we agreed on using the word generation. Another achievement was seeing the reality and analyzing it without sinking in unserious dissimulation.
Naser: Whom did you admire? To whom did you read; journalists and novelist?
Aziz: literary or intellectual admiring is the extract of reading. There is more than one name in my memory that influenced me. Since story fact crystallized in my thinking and became a real anxiety to move to the possibility area or the area which I named “Character Building Center”, I went on reading known Arab and Iraqi stories. Then my curiosity made me enter the field of international fiction. I can say that I scanned the literature of story and novel on the scale of Arab and international ones. I wrote down the features of each of them. I tried to criticize and re-read the stories which I liked more like the experiment of Iraqi story writer Mohammad Khdayer, Edward Kharrat from Egypt, Rasheed Bu Jidrah from Algeria, Kateb Yasin and Ben Jalloun from Morocco. While on the international level, the name of Claude Simon and his novel “The Flanders Road” was still shining. I liked Virginia Woolf and James Joyce in “Ulysses” in addition to many names I cannot list now like the everlasting names of Latin American literature.
Naser: How would you evaluate the Iraqi story from the start of the twentieth century to the nineties?
Aziz: Actually, talking about Iraqi story has a special taste; Iraqi story had its own tragedy. I cannot say Iraqi story is the pioneer in the Arab story, but it made important developments in the last three decades since the sixties, which can be considered as an important turn for Iraqi story. Story at that time started to establish philosophical visions and deep dialectics. Struggle between intellectual currents, political changes and social thoughts increased and thus we had the stories of Tumaa Farman as a continuity of the fifties generation and the stories of Fuad Tekerli were rich in its ideas and artistic processing.
I can say that Iraqi story passed few stages starting from the ideal and preachy role which we can find in the stories of the Iraqi story pioneers: Mahmoud Sayyed and AbdelHaq Fadhel. This stage continued to the beginning of fifties where there was a turn point in the artistic structure. Many names appeared like AbdelRahman Rubaiee who defines himself as one of the sixties generation, Ahmad Khalt, Ghazi Abbadi, AbdelKhaliq Rimani till Mohammad Khdayer who established a new turn point in Arab and Iraqi story. Iraqi stories had developed obviously in sixties and seventies and it has a valuable place in Arab story now. But the important thing which impacted its situation is the quality of mass media and the way to deal with. The big events which Iraq lived made Iraqi literature live a new state of struggle. This made the story reach a state of freedom or no ideality. In general, Iraqi story achieved good steps on the level of structure development and it solved lots of problematic that were related to the identity of renovation
Naser: What about symbols in your literature?
Aziz: I think the existence of symbolism in a story is too important and necessary for different reasons such as strengthening the critic concept of the story and deepening establishing new point of views. It helps also the possibility to adapt language leading to preferring a specific story reaching-way and how to deal with it. What we tried is to be understood that people are an integrated group of symbols and signs. In stories that deal with symbolism as a tool to connect axis of idea as one of the tools to get non simple recitative stories, the reader bypasses his/her old crassitude and simplicity and will start to see the text with many eyes. The reader will be very concerned of a question or a reaction against a specific thought.