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This report is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

The Man Who Stayed Awake In His Delirium
Translated by the author and Lucy Hamilton
Adnan Al-Sayegh
In my teens I loved reading books and poetry more than anything else.

When the drums of war sounded in 1980, we were forced to fight, to become soldiers in the war.

Life was extremely harsh. We were soldiers in a mountainous area called Shiekhwasal, in north Iraq. Death surrounded us from all sides. In books and poetry I found a refuge and a friend who eased my suffering. I had to always hide thesebooks under my bed and amongst my clothes. Many of them were forbidden and I was terrified that the officials would see them.

Inevitably, one of the spies found these books and betrayed me. The military officer came and searched my bed and my clothes. He discovered several books, including those of Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, Sherko Bekas, Al-Jawahiri, Saadi Youssef, Erich Maria Remarque, Adonis, and others.

The officer was mad with rage and confined me to an abandoned animal stable where I lived for nearly two years. I was not alone, for in this stable they had imprisoned other penalised men. Among them was a soldier who suffered from schizophrenia.

One day some men brought boxes of ammunition to store in our stable. We were very afraid that we would be blown up in the repercussion of a falling shell or anything else. But with each passing day, we became increasingly indifferent. No longer caring about what would happen, we slept on these boxes of dynamite. ...

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