Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nice book for Christmas - nonfiction

If you have people on your list who still like to read about Iraq, consider David Finkel's Good Soldiers. It has made it onto more than one best of list. Finkel follows one small unit in Baghdad through 2007 and 2008. It reminds me a bit of Dispatches, in that it is quite literary, but it lacks the phantasmagoria of that book.

Here is a section where Finkel uses translation as a means to show the difficulty the Army had in working with the locals. The he is a Lt. Colonel who met regularly with leaders of Sadr City. I love the economy of language and the amount of emotion packed into this tiny bit of writing.

He learned to say habibi, which meant "dear friend."

He learned to say shaku maku ("what's up?), shukran la su' alek ("thank you for asking") , and saffya daffya ("sunny and warm")

He learned to say anee wahid kelba ("I am one sexy bitch"), which made people laugh every time he said it.

The months went by. The meetings grew repetitive. The same complaints. The same selfish requests. The same nothing done.

He learned to say marfood ("disapproved") and qadenee lel jenoon ("it drives me crazy")

June came.

He learned to say coolah khara ("it's all bullshit") and shadi ghabee ("stupid monkey")

July came.

Allah ye sheelack, he found himself saying. I hope you die. " May God take your soul."

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