Sun Jan 13, 2013, 4:46 AM
I wasn't planning at the outset of the contest to give a grand prize, but, along came one entry that I changed my mind. I felt very personally attached to it, for reasons some of you may know, and I did not feel I could judge it with the rest of the entries. However, that being said, I believe this piece needs to be showcased, as I am hoping that the author will pursue it and expand it; it's well worth your time to read.
Turning Into Ghosts2007
BABYLON- AL HILLAH,
I have come back. Finally, I am here, standing on the same unwinding road that I was forced to bid goodbye to in what seems to have been eons ago and yet, it feels like I never really left at all. Seventeen years have passed since my nightmares first began to unfold into reality; the summer of 1990 forever haunts me. So full of emotion, my eyes tear up as I am still trying to process my arrival. Truly, I feel as if every time I inhale and my lungs expand, I am instantly pricked with a million needles and, whenever I breathe out and my lungs deflate, it's as if I've lost my soul altogether with the carbon dioxide waste. My heart must be shouldering bricks and my legs are but trapped in cement shoes, I just know it.
Why am I back here? I have already lost everything. I am entering a town filled with past ghosts and demons. I tell myself that I need not revisit this sad reminder of the irreparable yet my feet continue marching along this corkscrew path. A va
What immediately struck me about this piece was the fact that it did not back away from what is a topic of modern-day relevance, and one that is still a very contentious issue in certain parts of the world. Certainly the Gulf Wars are not easy for anyone to talk about without firing up a heated discussion. But the piece is daring, and I appreciate the frankness and the boldness of it.
Second is the 'time-lapse' effect the piece had; so long after the fighting the results of the war are still very apparent, on both the people and the landscape, and without it being a metaphor. War simply does destroy things, and I think the piece painted that concept very realistically.
The last thing that really stood out for me was that, though it is a piece written on a very sensitive topic, it does not lay blame. It does a beautiful job of walking the fine line between showing reality and not making accusations. I was reminded strongly of the forward of All Quiet on the Western Front which reads: 'This book is to be neither an accusation, nor a confession... ...It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped the shells, were destroyed by war.'
I think this is a topic worth examining and discussing. It is the war of the modern day, and it is simply not factual to think there are only two countries, or even only two sides involved. It is a multifaceted problem, a many headed hydra, to borrow a phrase, with roots in cultural problems, historical problems, and modern logistical problems. thus, I asked the author to prepare a little interview, so we can hear her words on why she wrote this piece.
So, say hello to Sammur-amat!
1. Why did you write this piece?
- For so very many reasons, honestly, but the greatest one of all is being able to share a truth which even today, many people would prefer to turn a blind eye on; a truth about the ugliness of war. It is so sad how we live in such a dichotomous world where its either a group of people have no idea or expression of what a state of anomie and chaos brought about by war can mean and the other, a group of people living in a world built on these factors alone. My family hails from a long list of war heroes, veterans and martyrs and this fiction piece is actually but a compound of true stories which have either affected me and my family or moved my soul.
2. Why do you feel people should read and write about war?
- Why people should read about war? This can be answerable by just as the greatest reason why most novels must be read and that is to open and broaden people's minds. What better way to be able to understand a war instigator/hero/victim's point of view than to live in it through his/her life story? Why people should write about war? In answering this question one very famous quote comes to mind and that is,"All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing". Again, what better way to allow the world to fully grasp the catastrophes of war and to rise against it than by enlightening the world through words? I believe that writers who are brave enough to share their stories after either having experienced the gravity of war firsthand or taking the time to truly study wars and their victims are heroes in their own rights and in the eyes of the literary world.
3. Was there anything you were specifically trying to say with your piece, or would you rather leave that up to reader interpretation?
- After everything I've said, I'll leave the rest up to the readers to tell me what they see.
DBC adds: We would love to see your interpretations, questions, and comments on her piece itself, or here.
4. Any advice for people who want to write war stories?
- I don't think myself qualified enough to be able to give decent advice on writing war stories. Although, if you'd kindly allow me, I'd love to direct you to =doughboycafe - a great inspiration to me what with her wonderful, wonderful gallery chock full with mind-blowing war stories.
DBC adds: She is too modest, but the main advice that I think Sammur-Amat's stories give us is: write the truth, don't conflate, don't blame. Just write the truth .
So congrats, Sammur-amat, prizes are on the way, and we you.
- Reading: On Writing - Stephen King