‘Paul Starkey’s elegant and lucid translation does justice to Al-Saqrs’s absorbing and subtle portrait of British colonialism in action. It shows the muted aspirations of the post-war-generation of educated Iraqis with emotional and sociological acuity.’
Set among the oil wells of the Basra region of southern Iraq, East Winds, West Winds paints a picture at once subtle and vivid of relations between the British and their local employees in the 1950s.
Much of the action is seen through the eyes of the young, bookish narrator. It soon becomes clear that a world of difference separates the lives of Abu Jabbar, Hussein, Istifan, and the rest from that of their European bosses with their company dances and other strange social customs.
Although the novel has a strongly nationalistic flavour, it is also suffused with a lingering sense of nostalgia for a gentler age, which will inevitably prompt reflections on the more recent British and US involvement in that unhappy country.
MAHDI ISSA AL-SAQR published his first collection of short stories, Criminals with Kind Hearts, in 1954. In the same year, he established with Badr Shakir al-Sayyab the Modern Art Group in Baghdad, which published new Iraqi writing. He has published six collections of short stories, one of them in Damascus, with another withdrawn from Iraqi libraries in 1968.