Once they used to say that Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, and Baghdad reads, and when I lived in Baghdad in 1988-90 the book market flourished, a scruffy haven of old and sometimes wonderful books. Later I read of the dreadful business of libraries sold off piecemeal as the price of survival, the slow, tragic dismantling of decades of intellectual life in the study and the living-room. More recently still, the old book market was said to be flourishing on Mutannabi Street once again. Now I have from an old Baghdad colleague the news that the books market is no more, bulldozed by the city authorities in what they claim is a normal tidying up of urban life. That’s the kind of normal tidying up of urban life which has bulldozers crushing bookstalls during the night. Poor Baghdad. The city of a thousand libraries, ink from which stained the Tigris black during the Mongol sack in 1258, is suffering once again. Baghdad reads no more, if its rulers have their way.
One thought on “Bulldozing Books”
Sad story indeed! Bulldozing Mutannabi Street is like ripping the languages out of Iraq’s intellectual community. One of the places I dreamed of visiting in Baghdad which do not exist anymore!