The Devil You Don't Know: Going Back to Iraq

Zuhair al-Jezairy, trans. from the Arabic by John West, Saqi (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 paper (256p) ISBN 9780863566493
In this arresting memoir, journalist al-Jezairy returns to his native Iraq after 25 years in exile to found a newspaper and direct a news agency. Al-Jezairy's prose elegantly captures who and what he finds upon returning after the fall of the Ba'athist regime. The site of his first kiss, his mother's former bed, and the veranda from which he once watched his son board the school bus swirl with present-day reflections of fear, destruction, and death. Al-Jezairy's voice solidifies over the course of the book, mirroring his journey from the disorientation of return to the purpose of bearing witness. With only occasional direct mention of the Americans, the references to their presence bring powerful and necessary insights: "What good is freedom of expression, or the right to vote, if you don't haveā€¦ the freedom to send your children to school without being afraid that they will be kidnapped?" The author struggles at times with maintaining clarity, but the blending of eras and the focus on intimate moments that unfold free of logic feel honest and human. "What is happening is so strange there is no connection to, or precedent in, the past." (June)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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