“I think of Baghdad years ago, when I met Professor Al-Rawi for the first time to discuss The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his favorite book by his favorite American.
He awarded me the task of reading it in the off-term, when the other students of English relaxed at home. Each day, I went to his office on the Karada campus and he explained to me things which I could not have possibly understood then.
Truly, I did not comprehend a single thing at first. How Mark Twain wrote. How these Americans spoke, so ignorant and rough. Why Americans today thought of this story of terribly behaved children as high art.
"Kateb, you must understand the context," Professor Al-Rawi said. "What the American reader knew then, what Americans today do not remember, and what you certainly cannot understand. These were not just boys making silly plans in caves. These were boys growing up just in time for their war. Sitting there, making plans to start this robber's gang, this was quite humorous to Americans reading the book in the nineteenth century."
"But not Americans of today?"
He lit a cigarette. "Humorous, yes. But for other reasons. You see, Americans today...forget. Ten years after these boys met to scheme in caves, their civil war fell upon them. These boys, these Missouri boys, they would have cut each other's throats in that war. And the sides they would pick? This was determined in their youth, you see."
We were silent for a moment as I considered this.
"Have you thought about Huck Finn cutting Tom Sawyer's throat?" he asked.
"No."
"You should, Kateb. You should think about that." Then he smiled, like he knew all along what would come for us.”


Michael Pitre, Fives and Twenty-Fives
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Fives and Twenty-Fives Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre
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