Monday, June 17, 2024 | Dhu al-hijjah 10, 1445 H
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Toss up! East or West?


Nabeel, the hero of Clouds Player; a novella by Iraqi Diaspora Ali Badir, finds himself torn between living in his native place and immigrating to the West. Though the decision of joining such an immense exodus during the 1990s in Iraq, and departing such a fragmented society in which he was living, was not taken easily, he did.

Azeez Jasim Mohammed
Azeez Jasim Mohammed

The core of the novella’s idea is logo-centered on Nabeel’s musical instrument, to whom it is a symbol of a flourishing future, liberation from the fatigued way of living, and the hope for achieving his ends as a cellist. Unexpectedly, his musical instrument is savagely destroyed by fundamentalists on both sides; his native place and abroad. He is mentally tortured by the extremists who are found living everywhere, like mosquitoes, and he is left in a state of mind by the atrocities of their conduct.

The innermost conflict that mankind used to live on, as it is put by psychologists, is not something new. This is true with the conflict inside the hero himself, which is a result of the conflict inside the extremists who forced the hero, unconsciously, to immigrate. The fact is that the societies are unlike each other, and they do not meet in so many points like culture, social conventions, religious rites, and the way of living except for radicalism; they all agree. This idea is found true in two different societies in the novella where the hero lives and he is in touch with their natives directly; one stands for the East and the other is an example of the West. Nabeel escapes exhausted radical thinking in his native place to find it abroad, and this supports our assumption that societies meet altogether at the point of radicalism.

You may find different conducts in the target society but you cannot cope with them all. Coping with foreign cultures is not an easy task as we may expect. It may take time, indeed, to adjust yourself to the culture of the society that you are heading to. Nabeel is able to; speak their language, eat their food and drink with them by attending parties and joining in the inns, shave his beard and mustache, and have his hair cut exactly like theirs, but still, he cannot feel that the natives treat him as one of them. He is treated as a refugee by the natives, and there are so many discussions with which he does not have the right to share his opinion, though he is a member of that group. If a diaspora is able to change his conduct and gets rid of his own social conventions just to cope with the society he lives in, hardly it will be possible for him to change the society itself. This is because leaving a society means denying it or at least denying the conduct of its natives. But the farcical in the individual’s conduct when he continues living in the society that he flees to though it carries the same features of his native place!

The hero is shocked to find out, finally, that the Eastern and Western societies are not more than two sides of a coin. In this conclusion, the author advises those who plan to immigrate abroad to rethink well before making a decision of departure, and they spend their life where they are born because “East or West, Home is Best”.

Azeez Jasim Mohammed,

Head, Department of English Language and Literature,

Al-Zahra College for Women

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