Double defiance and the diary’s generic boundaries: Nuha al-Radi’s chronicle of war and exile | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1751-2867
  • E-ISSN: 1751-2875



As the US-led coalition forces were bombing Baghdad in 1991, the prominent Iraqi ceramist Nuha al-Radi began writing a diary in English, which now represents, as a book titled Baghdad Diaries ([1998] 2003), a valuable document about what the ordinary civilians went through during a war in which they had no say. While the diary demonstrates the horrible human losses, material damages and environmental degradation inflicted by a savage war, it also reveals the fear of living under an oppressive dictatorial regime. The diary becomes a nuanced, carefully coded message, defying the double tyrannies of a genocidal, rogue regime that brutalizes its people and an arrogant superpower that so callously harms a helpless, hapless population. As well, al-Radi, with the prescience of an artist, anticipates the future horrors that befall Iraq after yet another war in 2003, launched by the same superpower. In this respect, I query Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s argument that ‘literature cannot predict, but it may prefigure’. Moreover, by exposing the hypocrisy and illogic of war and by organically extrapolating her own suffering during the war and in exile with the collective agonies of an entire nation, al-Radi expands the boundaries of the diary by transcending the solipsistic pitfalls with which the genre might tempt the diarist: she politicizes the hardships and emotions of the personal and endows the intimacy of the private with a public significations. The expansive contexts embracing Baghdad Diaries ([1998] 2003) thus demonstrate the genre’s validity, versatility and open possibilities.


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