Basrayatha is a literary tribute by author Mohammed Khudayyir to
the city of his birth, Basra, on the Shatt al-Arab waterway in
southern Iraq. Just as a city's inhabitants differ from outsiders
through their knowledge of its streets as well as its stories, so
Khudayyir distinguishes between the real city of Basra and
Basrayatha, the imagined city he has created through stories,
experiences, folklore, and insights.By turns a memoir, a
travelogue, a love letter, and a meditation, Basrayatha summons up
images of a city long gone. In loving detail, Khudayyir recounts
his discovery of his city as a child, as well as past communal
banquets, the public baths, the delights of the Muslim day of rest,
the city's flea markets and those who frequent them, a country
bumpkin's big day in the city, Hollywood films at the local cinema,
daily life during the Iran-Iraq War, and the canals and rivers
around Basra. Above all, however, the book illuminates the role of
the storyteller in creating the cities we inhabit - as Khudayyir
himself has done with Basrayatha. Evoking the literary modernism of
authors like Calvino and Borges, and tinged with nostalgia for a
city now disappeared, Basrayatha is a masterful tribute to the
power of memory and imagination.
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