‘Founding Fathers’ by Fadhil al-Azzawi


From Words Without Borders:

“That’s really them! Who would have believed it?”

Adil Salim al-Amir rested his elbow on the sill of the half-open window overlooking a spacious garden that extended far into the distance. The once-deceased military dictators were down there and he was up here, writing their story. But he still didn’t know where to begin or end. He came day after day to record their living history for future generations—as it had been put to him—even though he had no interest at all in these future generations, since he could form no clear idea of them. 

He felt that he himself had also become the protagonist in a tale told by the nothingness and forgetfulness from which they had emerged. No sooner had they slipped back into their old palace wearing their star-studded military uniforms than they had remembered everything they had left behind. The fires of hatreds long extinguished by time’s oblivions had suddenly flared up in their hearts, and they had been drawn back into the gloomy realms of their past glories, obliged to live in solitude as they had been in the days of their bygone might, of which now only their victims’ memories remained.

Each of them had his own wing to which he would retire angrily, snarling about what he would do if he ever met one of his foes strolling down a path between the eucalyptus trees, beneath the endless green arch that was formed by their interlocking branches, which were transfixed by occasional rays of light. He observed them row leaky boats back and forth in the crashing waves of their thoughts as they traversed the garden of their famous palace on the bank of the river with their hands clasped behind backs that were bent under the weight of all the momentous events of a century that had continued to flash lightning and explode with thunder for a long period, grinding its victims’ bones beneath its millstone till everyone forgot about it, pretending it had never existed. Only they were its last witnesses now that people had sealed their memory of that time, deleting even memories of happy days that they had suppressed from a history they refused to acknowledge—treating it as someone else’s.

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