“Change with the Red” (غيّر بالأحمر), is today’s slogan of the Lebanese Communist Party for its 85th anniversary, a good opportunity to recall the very significant role of the various Marxist parties in the intellectual and cultural life of the modern Arab world. A good example is Iraq where the “Red menace” is still rearing its ugly head in the literary field after democracy has been generously “given” to its native people!
Around the middle of the 20th century, various young Iraqi poets conduced the Arabic poetic revolution. Among them, Badr Shakir Sayyab (بدر شاكر السياب). Born in a modest family from the southern part of the country, Sayyab joined the (then) powerful communist party during his studies in Bagdad. Later, he publicly moved away from his former “comrades” with a collection of articles first published in the Iraqi daily Al-Hurriya, then collected in a book in Beirut under the title “I was a communist”. (The book has been recently reissued by Al-Jamal, an Arabic Publishing house in Germany.)
Also coming from the south of the country, Saadi Youssef (سعدي يوسف) may be the last « great Arab poet » after Mahmud Darwish’s death. Faithfully following the poetic innovations of the 1950’, Saadi Youssef carries on his writing year after year. Two years ago, he has published a new collection: The Last Communist Comes to Heaven. A telling title for somebody grown up in the feverish atmosphere of the communist militants a mid-century ago and now established in London when his country is occupied by foreign troops.
As the inexorable decline of poetry in Arab literature is balanced by the irresistible rise of prose fiction, the formally Iraqi poet Ali Badr will be our third example. After his first novel, Papa Sartre, which gives an ironic description of the leftist intellectual life in the Bagdag of the sixties (the book has been translated into English), Ali Badr has written other books such as Chasing the wolves (الركض وراء الذئاب), a brilliant story which relates the fate of various Iraqi communists in Africa, where they fled the Saddam Hussein’s regime.
As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.