Marcia Lynx's Reviews > The Tobacco Keeper

The Tobacco Keeper by Ali Bader
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Dec 11, 11

Recently, a U.S.-based professor and I were discussing the possibility of teaching Ali Bader’s The Tobacco Keeper (in translation) to undergraduates. Or rather, I suggested the novel, and she – after flipping through the book – said she’d want to read the book, but probably wouldn’t teach it.

One reason not to teach the book was its complex and somewhat long-winded frame story. Fine. But another, more interesting objection to teaching The Tobacco Keeper to U.S. undergrads was the way in which it locates the origins of Iraqi violence. Somewhat uncommonly among Iraqi narratives, The Tobacco Keeper explicitly suggests the nation’s current violence could have its origins in the attacks on the nation’s Jews in 1941.

This is not to say that Bader in any way exculpates American power. He does not; indeed, he has vivid things to say about American companies and interests. But does it play too easily into the American idée fixe about Arabs? Bader certainly was conscious of his multiple audiences when he wrote the book. He said, in a yet unpublished interview:

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