Friday, October 07, 2005

War Stories

I've been reading the so far fantastic novel, The Story of Zahra, by Hanan Al-Shaykh, and I've just passed the part in the story where the title character expresses her affinity with the civil war: It is the best excuse for her sleep long hours, to mill about for days in the same outfit, and to wallow in her strangeness, all without arousing the nosey inquiries of neighbors and friends who can't fault her behavior in the midst of the chaos.

But then the same war that allows her the perfect cover for seeping deeper into her alienation from the world, somehow affects the exact opposite change in her. I'm still trying to pinpoint the why and when of the moment of transformation in the text.

Severe external circusmtances seem to work that way, swinging you from one extreme to another, before you even have time to notice the change, much less ponder the reasons for it. I think this may be true for children too.

Except for the first few terrifying night attacks, my dominant memories of the Iran-Iraq war are that it was pleasant, this despite the uncles and other family members sent off to the frontlines, and the various ecomonic and emotional hardships that resulted from that tragic 8 year war. I guess as a kid you sort of generalize that if the first couple of bombings didnt kill you, then the next dozens or hundred wont hurt you either. Then the war becomes equated with welcome breaks from normality, with close huddles with family and friends in basements-turned-shelters, and with hasty escapes from the city in anticipation of chemical weapons.

i think may have noted all this before somewhere on this blog. But the reading i'm doing is triggering the memories once again.

Truth is, I wanted to write something on the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq War, which passed only a couple of weeks ago. It's seems that plenty of people commented on it, so I didnt figure there was a vacuum that needed filling. Besides, all this "us against the world" Nationalism that tends to come up on these occasions really gets on my nerves. So I didnt want to fall in that choir, even if by association.

In all fairness, though, I wasnt paying much attention to the Net during those couple of weeks. I'm sure there are some great posts out there on the issue. All I know is that i've had this nagging feeling since the anniverary to revisit the war, and to think and write more about it, especially as it bears on the present.

For now, I have a cold to nurse myself through, and a Story of Zahra that I want to complete.