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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A daring journey to dark places
I picked up this book and read it yesterday. I had to take breaks, at the parts that were excruciatingly painful, but I had to pick it up and continue. It is so unlike other memoirs of political prisoners, that are often one dimensional in recalling the painful memories. Haifa is so bold to have gone to these dark and painful places and confront the pain, the humiliation...
Published on 28 Feb 2010 by T. Swift

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of Zangana's experiences
This is not meant to be a light book, and thought it is easy to read it is not for the faint-hearted. Here are the reminiscences of someone who has really suffered for their beliefs and who is still haunted by what they have been through and (more unusually) what they themselves have done.

The account unfolds in a variety of ways and over time- through letters...
Published 14 months ago by Clodia M


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A daring journey to dark places, 28 Feb 2010
By 
T. Swift "Tamarra" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dreaming of Baghdad (Women Writing the Middle East) (Paperback)
I picked up this book and read it yesterday. I had to take breaks, at the parts that were excruciatingly painful, but I had to pick it up and continue. It is so unlike other memoirs of political prisoners, that are often one dimensional in recalling the painful memories. Haifa is so bold to have gone to these dark and painful places and confront the pain, the humiliation and most importantly reassessing her dreams.
Her daring honesty jolted me, yet I felt like Haifa is speaking about herself as if in the midst of an out of body experience in some of the parts. I am at awe how she is able to be so objective about things so devestatingly close. She tells us of her memories (some are beautiful and vivd) transporting us from one scene to another often getting diverted (recalling a memory within a memory) as she weaves the thread that links all these scenes together.
The Forward by the Iranian academic Hamid Dabashi and Ferial Ghazoul's anlysis add to the book's richness and defiance of the current situation.
Haifa, you emerge a spirited woman, strong and defiant almost as if you are taunting your tortureres, just like our Baghdad.

I highly recomend this book
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of Zangana's experiences, 26 April 2013
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This review is from: Dreaming of Baghdad (Women Writing the Middle East) (Paperback)
This is not meant to be a light book, and thought it is easy to read it is not for the faint-hearted. Here are the reminiscences of someone who has really suffered for their beliefs and who is still haunted by what they have been through and (more unusually) what they themselves have done.

The account unfolds in a variety of ways and over time- through letters to herself, short stories of events, and diary type entries, as though a pain needed to be exorcised in getting the memories out and committed to paper.

It is like a confessional, and as such I think it is to be applauded.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shocked but not Awed, 19 April 2010
By 
James Denselow "James Denselow" (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dreaming of Baghdad (Women Writing the Middle East) (Paperback)
(Originally reviewed for Middle East International) Haifa Zangana's short but passionately written series of memories are a powerful testimony of the Saddam-era and a reminder of the folly of the Iraq invasion.

Zangana could have been a poster-child for reasons for going to war. Half-Kurdish and half-Arabic, her intellect and yearning for an Iraq free from political repression saw her spend years locked up and tortured in Saddam's prisons. Yet Zangana refuses to conform to the stereotype that to be anti-war was to be pro-Saddam, she is indeed clear that "we did not struggle for decades to replace one torturer with another".

It is this deep disgust at the occupation of Iraq, the shattering of the state and the humiliation of the nation that led Zangana to avoid becoming a feminist propaganda tool for supporting the war. Instead, working from London, she has been both a vocal critique of the current situation, accusing the American's of turning "all of Iraq into an Abu Ghraib", and an elegant writer whose memoir is an emotional reminder of the tragic echoes of Iraq's past.
It cannot be easy to write about a past so scarred by violence and loss. Zangana admits that the work is her attempt to "slowly pour" the events of her past into an unconventional narrative. Indeed she admitted at a recent book launch that "the most difficult thing to write about is the feeling of humiliation". Unsurprisingly therefore Dreaming of Baghdad is dominated by a sense of loss. This loss is not just of her country when Zangana was forced into exile, but of her memory and heritage to the unstoppable momentum of time. She questions her own motives in asking "is it my way of warding off forgiveness that comes with time? ..... warding off memory's conscious emptying of its rage? Warding off oblivion?"

Dreaming of Baghdad avoids a linear chronology of her life but rather flits between past, present and future, skipping between first and third person in an effective vehicle to force the reader to share the authors experience of bringing difficult memories together. The Baghdad Zangana dreams of her family's sitting room frozen in time: "the room was tidy, the way she had left it the day she departed, swearing never to return until there was a change of regime". Yet this is a dream that was never realized, despite years of waking up tired because "she'd lain awake most of the night".

Dreaming of the past challenges the author's present. A boyfriend once snaps at her "you're living in the past. Aren't you interested in the present? Our present together, our future?" Yet Zangana's mixed nostalgia for the past is placed in a sharp contrast by her constant guilt at having survived Saddam's torturers. Whenever she meets fellow survivors "we spend our evenings talking of the past. I address them as if they are not there, and they talk about me as if I am somewhere else". Even when she was in the company of the resistance Zangana lived "in a state of perpetual fear". In a country where only death could prove your innocence, the author is burdened by her own survival and memories of those less fortunate.

Dreaming of Baghdad is also a migrant's tale, filled with the dreary rain sodden scenes of 1980s London. Zangana feels "suffocated" by the absence of emotion and cold humanity that she finds in the UK, an alienation that makes the loss of her past that much more tragic.

Today Zangana has used her personal experience as a means of understanding what has happened to post-invasion Iraq. Indeed much of the book is signpost towards current events. In 2003 Zangana watched as the memory and heritage of the country went up in smoke with the looting of the national museum, the burning of the national library and an orgy of theft at Iraq's archeological sites.

Despite having witnessed so much pain and suffering in the name of her country, the book admits that politics is a "strange disease. I don't think we'll ever be cured of it". Indeed through Zangana's eyes her dreaming of Iraq is a conduit to the nightmare of its reality where "our streets are prison corridors and our homes cells as the occupiers go about their strategic humiliation and intimidation. The Anglo-American occupation means destruction, rape and pillage".

Zangana's concern for the how the destruction of Iraq's past heritage may impact on its future has led her to argue in favor of keeping all monuments from Iraq's more bloody times, including Saddam's palaces, in order to avoid airbrushing history. She asks how can you `de-Ba'athify' 35-years of history, citing in particular the destruction of literature. Zangana talks of how because "the majority of books published had to include photographs of Saddam Hussein they were banned or their owners arrested". The one heritage site that she does take umbrage with was the construction of the statute of a US soldier morning his dead whilst being comforted by an Iraqi child.

Dreaming of Baghdad is a short and sharp reminder that the whilst no country is condemned to repeat its past, its future will be charted only by learning the lessons taught by honest advocates such as Haifa Zangana.
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Dreaming of Baghdad (Women Writing the Middle East)
Dreaming of Baghdad (Women Writing the Middle East) by Haifa Zangana (Paperback - 5 Feb 2010)
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