Iraqi writer Najm Wali: Hold on to marginalized places that have an ephemeral history



Since his arrival in Germany at the beginning of the eighties, the Iraqi novelist Najm Wali decided not to be an ordinary figure, so he managed to win many awards, which delights the country and the Iraqi and German novels in general, because he writes in both languages.

The most prominent award that Wali received previously was the Bruno Kreisky International Prize for Literature, for his famous novel “Baghdad Marlborough”. Kreisky is an Austrian politician and one of the leaders of the Austrian Socialist Party, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1959 and 1966, and then Chancellor of Austria between 1970 and 1983, and is considered the most famous and influential Austrian socialist leader in the second half of the twentieth century.

His presidency marked the social welfare system in light of Austria’s economic growth in the seventies, and transformed Austria from a small, neutral country to a country with influence and a diverse network of relations in global politics at the time. In honor of his memory, this important award was established and won by many distinguished writers, such as: German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, Hungarian Nobel laureate Emre Curtis, Swiss philosopher Gian Z. Flair, and well-known Indian novelist Aru Ndani Roy.

Wali also won the American Journalism Award, the “Villa Korn Pink” award in Germany, the Swiss Stroeli Prize, and finally the Homeland Award for Nordwestfalen.

soad - najem wali
Najm Wali’s book won the German Homeland Award (networking sites)

A text about the country

The Homeland Prize, as the novelist Najm Wali told Al Jazeera Net, was awarded to “a text I wrote in German… and a home project in which the jury chose 5 writers and 5 photographers, and they were asked to reside in the Münsterland region in the North West Valen region (eastern Germany) for a week, to write About what they think can be their homeland, and what they believe is the spirit of a homeland for them.. In the end (the jury) chose from among these texts and pictures the writer and photographer who deserved to win. And I was the winner among the writers.

A prose text in a poetic spirit

When asked about the nature and content of the text, Najm said: It is a text that prose in the spirit of poetry, in which I talked about my relationship with the place and how my homeland is the narrative, and “endemic to the stories” is the title of the text, and I wrote it directly in German, of course. A book has been published on the award that includes the five texts that participated, and I will soon translate it into Arabic.

And when asked about the importance of the award, he said that “regardless of its moral and material value and its fame, the importance of the award lies in the basis on which it was based in granting it… that it is awards that the creator does not go to, but rather come to him, chosen by a jury without knowing! And without favor From anyone, no ruler, no sultan, or anyone else.”

Wali told us about his latest publications, which is the novel “Souad and the Soldiers”, and he said about her, “I talked about Cinderella Soad Hosni and her relationship with the military,” noting a presentation by the Syrian poet Aref Hamza about the novel (previously published in Al Jazeera Net), as for his new one, he said that it is “a new novel.” It will be a surprise coming at the end of this year.”


Leaving the narratives of history

The Iraqi novelist believes that the narrator’s act of intertwining with the process of historical documentation of the event is trying to catch a neglected moment for fear of slipping through the obsolescence that characterizes the raging Iraqi reality. The history of the Iraqi hell, I began with it in a novel: the war in the neighborhood of al-Tarab, and I always grabbed the marginalized places that had a certain history that was ephemeral.

Najm Wali lectures on the winning script
Najm Wali lectures on the award-winning text (Al-Jazeera)

He continues, saying that “Al-Tarab neighborhood” was a neighborhood of Roma located in the geographical triangle between Kuwait, Iraq and Iran. It existed for a certain period during the Lebanese civil war, following the transformation of the destination of Gulf tourists who used to Lebanon as a theater for their types of pleasure at the time, so Saddam Hussein built for them a kind of “Las Vegas” Close to them to spend their time every weekend.

This neighborhood I dealt with as an equivalent of the Iran-Iraq war, and it is the first spot that was affected by the artillery of that war. Thus, this work had a strong impact after its publication, because it represented the first point of view (a novel) that contradicted the viewpoint of the ruling authority on that war.

And Najm adds, “Therefore, I repeat that history is made by weapons, while philosophy is made by ideas. Here, the novel is a fiction that turns history into stories told. Here, it escapes from the weapon of the victor who writes history. transmitted by people at all stages of time or space.

It is noteworthy that Najm Wali was born in Amarah in 1956, and studied German literature at the University of Baghdad. He left Iraq in 1980 and studied Spanish literature at Complutense University and German literature at the German University of Hamburg, where he also obtained a master’s degree.

Najm became one of the world’s most famous Arab and Iraqi writers, and he writes for the most important German newspapers, and some of his novels have been translated into international languages.

Today, Wali lives as a full-time writer in Berlin, Germany. He has also translated many German literature books into Arabic, and vice versa.

His most important novels are: “The War in the Tarab District”, “Baghdad Marlboro”, “Tal Al-Lahm”, “The Picture of Yusuf”, and “Suad and Al-Asaker”.



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