Masks in the Iraqi Hell: On the Works of Iraqi Writer ʿAbd al-Sattār Nāṣir
ʿAbd al-Sattār Nāṣir (1947–2013) belonged to the group of Iraqi writers and intellectuals called Jīl al-Sittināt "the Sixties Generation", which dominated the cultural scene at the time.
This article examines Nāṣir as a driven writer, who initially wrote out of a morally induced reaction to expose the suffering and brutalization of all Iraqi peoples and ethnicities by a controlling totalitarian regime, and as a once-incarcerated author of brave novels he hoped would someday catalyze a popular overthrow of the lawless, abusive leaders, thereby ending the fears and violence possessing Iraq’s body politic. Two themes -- the destruction wreaked by those with extraordinary power and their use of lies and deception to control the people –- are central to the three novels chosen as representative of Nāṣir’s oeuvre: Abū al-Rīsh (2002), Niṣf al-Aḥzān 'Half Sorrows' (2000) and Qushūr al-Badhinjān 'Eggplant Peels' (2007).
In these three novels, Nāṣir exposes the unimaginable terror, violence and cruelty of Saddām Ḥusayn and his henchmen, as well as their propaganda, which consisted of lies and deception. Saddām is depicted as a ruler who presents himself as an inspiring revolutionary, but in fact is a tyrant who deceives the citizens, subjecting them to brutal control and leading them into deadly wars.
Following George Orwell’s 1984, Nāṣir’s literary corpus attempts to rip the masks from the faces of the dictator and his lackeys, who oppress the people, deny them any freedom of thought and keep them under constant surveillance.