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Literature

Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati (1926-1999)
Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati (1926-1999)

Iraq has always been considered one of the most literate nations in the Arab world: it is often said – not only in Iraq – that books are written in Egypt, printed in Lebanon, and read in Iraq. It did not help Iraq’s own writing tradition that, under Saddam Hussein, novelists and poets were regularly summoned to write in praise of the leader, but in exile many poets and novelists upheld Iraq’s literary reputation.

Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri (1899-1999), considered one of the last of the classical Arab poets, lived in exile for the greater part of his adult life; Buland al-Haidari (1926-1996), who was a long-time opponent of Saddam Hussein, has since 1982 lived in London, where he worked as a literary critic, while being widely considered one of the best poets in modern Arab literature; and the life story of Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati (1926-1999) was one of flight and exile.

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