Posted by: sean | March 13, 2007

The red and black Tigris

A car bomb exploded last week in Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street, where booksellers once traded in ideas and words. Anthony Shadid has an excellent piece in remembrance of one of the booksellers killed in the blast.

When the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, it was said that the Tigris River ran red one day, black another. The red came from the blood of nameless victims, massacred by ferocious horsemen. The black came from the ink of countless books from libraries and universities. Last Monday, the bomb on Mutanabi Street detonated at 11:40 a.m. The pavement was smeared with blood. Fires that ensued sent up columns of dark smoke, fed by the plethora of paper.

A colleague told me that near Hayawi’s shop, a little ways from the now-gutted Shahbandar Cafe, a black banner hangs today. In the graceful slope of yellow Arabic script, it mourns the loss of Hayawi and his nephew, “who were assassinated by the cowardly bombing.”

After reading the whole thing, I’m not surprised to learn that Shadid is probably up for a Pulitzer this year.


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