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Psychological Trauma in Saad Z Hossian’s Escape from Baghdad

 

Psychological Trauma in Saad Z Hossian’s Escape from Baghdad

Psychological Trauma in Saad Z Hossian’s Escape from Baghdad

This thesis focuses on the traumatic situation of the characters in Saad Z Hossain’s Escape from Baghdad.  The text represents the isolation, alienation and depressed mentality of the characters such as Dagr, Kinza, Hoffman, Hamid, Mother Davala, Xervish, Yakin etc. There are the events of murder, rape, torture, threatening, holocaust, smuggling etc. Due to the deteriorated situation of Baghdad, people have been stranded in home and are in search of better environment but it is very difficult to escape from Baghdad. In order to make the research paper reliable, the notions of Sigmund Freud, Cathy Caruth, Hartman, LaCapra, Kali Tal, Jenny Edkins, and Judith Herman etc. are used as the theoretical tools. The significance of the study is to present the traumatic effect of past events. Thus, the research paper concludes that the novel Escape from Baghdad is an anti-war as the novelist denounces the war. The novelist is anxious about the chaotic situation of the world and suggests avoiding war.

This thesis explores the issues of traumatic experiences in Saad Z Hossian’s Escape from Baghdad. In order to study psychological trauma, the book reveals in the absurdity of life in modern war time but it is also realistic. It is not hard to believe that things probably were this insane at that time in Iraq. Hossain’s research included reading the blogs of young American soldiers deployed in Baghdad who wrote about what was happening to and around them; the madness as seen from the inside. Moreover, this is a violent, loud book, full of explosions and gruesome murder, horror of every sort of the invasion, of the bombs so visceral and terrible, and of the trauma to the locals who lost everything they have loved and known: families gone, libraries and histories wiped out. And the trauma to the young soldiers, some not yet recovered from PTSD, some carrying wounds that have not healed constant pain, a blinded eye all still in the field, half-mad with grief; some confused and wanting to go home, some, remaining relentless in their missions, violent and aggressive.

In particular, this project explores the traumatic situation of the characters haunted by the memory and jolting in the painful life course. Hossian’s main characters and supporting characters share the lime light; the story could not have been told without the supporting cost, all character of the book is roaming through different kinds of complex situation. They are tortured, frustrated, and alienated from unexpected and unrespectable situation of war. They very situation of boo is the climax which is full of traumatic sense.

This study discusses a wide range of incidents, including murder attempt, betrayal, deaths of relatives and loss of home, arguing that trauma cannot be located in the nature of a particular event, but rather in its impact on the general area. Saad Hossian creates one of his most unforgettable characters. It also centers on the traumatic lives of characters in complex situation in war time society.

Moreover, this research finds that the psychological torture of characters and the ramification from traumatic experience under the influences of external forces (war) and internal pressures (psychological torture). He emphasizes on the complicated situation of characters; psychological or mental torture in relationship and critical situation of human life and unfavorable circumstance.

Saad Z Hossain is a 33 years old Bangladeshi author writing in English. He has written numerous articles and short stories for The Daily Star, New Age, and the Dhaka Tribune, and the top English daily newspapers in Bangladesh. He’s a monthly columnist for the daily star literary page. His war satire Escape from Baghdad was published in 2015 by unnamed press in the U.S and Aleph in India. It is currently being translated in French. Bangladeshi writer Saad Z Hossain’s Escape from Baghdad is based on the war between Iraq and American. The very title of the novel contains its summary. In other words, it is a story of a person who escapes from Baghdad due to the terror of war. The former University Professor Dagr and the thug Kinza try to escape on undead to get the bunker of gold for smuggling out Captive Hamid, the star torturer of Saddam Hussein.

This research examines that, Saad Z Hossian representation of situation and characters in Escape from Baghdad as always psychological disorder. The story of the book unfolds in Gazaliya, with the blood of the Iraq War on every door and guns going off in every street. Dagr, a former university professor, and Kinza, a thug, are trying to escape undead to find the bunker of gold in return for smuggling out safely their captive, Captain Hamid, the star torturer of Saddam Hussein. So, it is a story of war in Baghdad which creates trauma where characters become the victim of psychological disorder because of different circumstances that cause mental upheavals time and again.

The research explores the issues of traumatic experience. It simply does not entail a comprehensive analysis of psychoanalytical theories rather it emphasizes on psychological trauma as conceptualized by Freud, and other theorists with the notions they put forward flashback, anxiety and depression and so on. An analysis of pitiless and inhuman atrocity of society of imposed upon characters through the traumatic school of studies. The major objective of the project is to bring forth the traumatic effect of past events.

The issue of trauma theory is taken as the tool in making the application of the novel from the viewpoint of traumatic experience. Jenny Edkins, Cathy Crauth, Dominick LaCapra, Kali Tal, Geoffrey Hartman, and Sigmund Freud are some of the thinkers whose insights are used to prove the point. The different extracts of the story are taken to prove the hypothesis. The word trauma is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing and that overwhelm people’s ability to  cope, leaving them powerless. Trauma has sometimes been defined in references to circumstances that are outside the realm of normal human experienes, unfortunately, this definition does not always hold ture. For some groups of people, trauma can occur frequently and become part of the common human experiences.

Trama theory is a relatively recent concept that emerged in the health care environment during the 1970s, mostly in connection with studies of Vietnam Veteran and other survior groups, ‘post trumatic stress disorder’ was added as a new category in the American psychiatric association official manual of mental disorder in 1980. Trauma theory represents a fundamental shift in thinking from the idea that those who have experienced psychological trauma are either ‘sick’ or deficient in moral character to the refrome that they are ‘injured’ and  in need of healing.

Trauma has sometimes been defined in reference to circumstances outside the normal human experience . Unfortunately, this definition does not always hold true. For some goups of people, trauma can occur frequently and become part of the common human experience. Moreover, in this research paper traumatic experiences are shown which have been giving unbearale pain in the life of characters. In this regard, traumatic events are those which are thought to involve victimization or the threat of victimization. Events such as witnessing violence, unproveoked physical attack, rape, physical , mental , emotional and sexual abuse, war accidents are those generally considered to be traumatic. So ‘Trauma’ is used to describe experieces or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing and that overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them powerless.Gender plays a significant role in mental health issues. For example, over 70 per cent of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are women. Those diagnosed as “borderlines” have been stigmatized as being difficult to work with and treatment-resistant.

The concept of trauma started generating interest in scholarly discourse in the early 1980’s when psychologists first began referring to the illness that they were witnessing in Vietnam veterans as post-traumatic stress disorder. By the1990’s, trauma had started to cross disciplinary lines, entering the work of literary and cultural theorists (e.g. Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman, Kali Tal, Dominick LaCapra, Geoffrey Hartman, Ruth Leys). Blending knowledge from the psychological sciences with the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, these scholars started excavating narratives of war, torture, rape, genocide, natural disaster, death, love, addiction, and abandonment, and presenting them as cultural evidence (and constant re-enactments) of both individual and collective trauma.

Edkins has written a provocative book on how traumatic memory is mobilized through various strategies of recall, particularly memorial emplacement in national narratives of heroism, sacrifice, and redemption. Intense remembering too easily turns to intentional forgetting, however, when such toxic memories cannot be contained in traditional memorial forms. Too often, Edkins observes, these narratives “seem unable to get away from rhetorics of state or nation, and they fail to escape the racialisation upon which the genocides, enslavements and famines were themselves based” (171). She worries as well that trauma stories, the moral testimony of witnesses (survivors, for example), are virtually incommunicable, though they must be communicated. This communication requires memorial forms and audiences willing to find, in her words, “ways of encircling the real,” ways of introducing the jarring reality of, in her words, “trauma time” (15).

The most important subject of debate concerns the relation of trauma to memory and came about as a result of a number of legal cases in the 1980s involving recovered memory of sexual abuse. There are two very hostile camps and both of them are linked in interesting ways to Freud. Members of the first camp, which includes clinicians such as Judith Herman as well as researchers, among them Bessel van der Kolk, believe firmly in the theory of dissociation, which is related to the concept of repressed memory, or traumatic amnesia. According to this view, the more horrific and prolonged the trauma, the more the subject has a tendency to dissociate and therefore have no conscious memory of the traumatic event. Thus, a child or even an adolescent who is subjected to repeated sexual abuse by a family member may very well not remember it until he or she enters into therapy as an adult; at that point, the patient may recover memories in a gradual process, sometimes with the help of hypnosis. Only by finally remembering the repressed trauma can the patient move on to recovery, that is, to “mastery” and healing.

Similarly, different critics have analyzed the novel from the multiple perspectives which preserves the universal nature of novel. Saad Hossian’s Escape from Baghdad has received several critical appraisals since the time of publication. Carl Reiner says:

Hossain has set his story in Baghdad, and it’s very much focused on the Iraq war he obviously also making a political statement. There is plenty of commentary on world politics and on the US’s stance on Iraq in particular so I ask him if it is even possible to be a writer of contemporary fiction and avoid politics? “It’s ok to write straightforward genre fiction to entertain readers,” says Hossain. “Quality writing should not be dismissed because it doesn’t attempt to change the world. Personally, there a lot of things I want to say, and I will always try to get my views across through fiction, although I wouldn’t sacrifice the internal logic of the plot or the characters for the sake of political commentary. (9)

In the above lines deals, Escape from Baghdad is hilarious, vicious and smart, and does not hold back from lashing out when it needs to. There are no good or bad characters here even the vigilante we all start off being afraid of is more than just a villain if he is a villain at all. Hossain isn’t interested in divides of good and evil, he’s interested in human beings being human: broken and flawed and complex and fascinating. If there’s one weakness in the book it’s that there aren’t any well-developed or nuanced female characters. There is one who has an important role to play but she is, essentially, a noir vamp, an Iraqi femme fatale. This novel has given the definition of psychological torture in characters, from war events as well as critical situation of society. Similarly, Tisani Doshi reveals:

Thereafter things slip increasingly into fantastical territory, involving a mystical sect, alchemy, a seemingly unkillable being known as the Lion of Akkad, and much else. Everyone is compromised in the post-victory chaos, and Hossain keeps the pot bubbling with salty one-liners and dashes of bathos. The Gulf war may just have found it. (3)

In these lines, Saad makes his story provoke discomfort too, through Parody and Satire. And he does that by making light of dreadful subjects of war, terror, violence and death. The opening lines of the book see Kinza saying for Hamid, ‘We should kill him, but nothing too orthodox’ (1). The tone has been set.

Death is so commonplace, so usual, that the neighborhood had suddenly realized that they had been bombed and were going through the usual reactions: disbelief, anger, exhibitionist wailing. There is an easy-going attitude towards killing and a mockery of death, even as the characters try their best to survive. While suffering is not trivialized, colossal stupidity of plans of attack, comic armors, mock-epic scenes of combat and larger-than-life episodes of heroism mark the narration, making the characters seem like actors fittingly in a Theatre of the Absurd. Seliya. C.B writes:

Hossain is not the first novelist to approach the traumas of armed conflict with a strong sense of the absurd-Vonnegut and Joseph Heller will spring to mind as obvious precedents-but, if a single modern war deserves to receive this kind of darkly satirical treatment, it would certainly have to be the Iraq War. (23)

In the extract, the dark days leading up to the Iraq War, two black marketers blunder into an ancient conspiracy involving a secret sect of Islamic mystics. That’s what Bangladesh-based journalist Hossain has done in this kinetic debut novel set in the exploding streets of Baghdad. Our “good guys,” so to speak, are Dagr, a widowed former professor of economics who’s turned to crime in the wake of the U.S. invasion, and Kinza, an anarchist berserker who can’t wait for the bad things to come, when the rage comes, just stay behind him, that’s all, warns Dagr of Kinza. Raju Baral says:

The novel Escape from Baghdad is opposite to the theory of Death of Author of the critics of mid20th century. The novel denounces war. The story of the novel is similar to the plot of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five. The horrific events of Iraq war have been presented in humorous, satirical and realistic manner. The novelist Hossain is worried about torture, murder, injustice etc. in the world. (7)

According to Roland Barthes, there is the death of author after the publication of a work. In another words, it has been declared that there was the end of Aristotelian theory of searching the beginning, the middle, and the ending. Although the novel has been written in 21st century, it has deconstructed the literary wall by using traditional method. Similarly, T.S Miller says:

Escape from Baghdad by Hossain is rich with the philosophy of existentialism were the world is meaningless. It reminds us of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. So, the characters in Gazaliya are stuck in a circular peace of fate, Cut off, unmoored flounder purposeless, despairing, meaninglessness, war, death, identitilessness. (11)

The philosophy of existentialism says that there is meaninglessness in the world. In other words, there is not any meaning for doing any work. Hossain’s novel Escape from Baghdad presents a picture of meaningless world. It reminds the readers about Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot where the characters are waiting for the God but the God does not come ultimately. Similarly, the characters of the novel Escape from Baghdad are stranded in Baghdad due to the war. Although they want to escape from Baghdad, they cannot get success because they are ill-fated. Their life has become purposeless, identitiless, and meaningless. The very first page of the novel Escape from Baghdad describes about the situation:

“WE SHOULD KILL HIM,” KINZA SAID. “BUT NOTHING TOO ORTHODOX.” Silence then. A kind of scathing, derisive, stifling silence expanding to fill the room, crowding out the detritus of previous conversations, leaving two black marketers drinking in a darkened space, in the back of a battered house, with nothing much to say. The room was dark because they had used foil paper to blacken the windows. The lights were off because outside, the JAM militia, known as the Mahdi Army had just torn through 13th Street (1)

Kathleen Miriam insists about the traumatic disaster:

A traumatic event is an event which threatens injury, death, or the physical body of a child or adolescent which also causing shock, terror or helplessness. Trauma refers to both the experience of being harmed by an external agent as well as response to that experience. Youth who experience trauma may also experience emotional harm or psychic trauma which, if left untreated, can have significant impact. Trauma typically exists along a spectrum which ranges from global, when an event may affect many individuals, to individuals, when the trauma impacts only that individual. (13)

Trauma is physical as well as psychological injury. These injuries are caused by different sorts of events. Traumatic experience damages the healthy and normal psychological framework of the victim. The victim of trauma, especially of psychological trauma, is prone to anxiety, social isolation, anger or emotional numbing, sudden mood shifts, irritability and grief. LaCapra opines trauma as:

There are two very broad ways of coming to terms with transference, or with one’s transferential implication in the object of study: acting- out; and working- through. Acting-out is related to repetition, and even the repetition -compulsion- the tendency to repeat something compulsively. This is very clear in the case of people who undergo a trauma. They have a tendency to relive the past, to exist in the present as if they were still fully in the past, with no distance from it. They tend to relive occurrences, or at least find that those occurrences intrude on their present existence, for example, in flashbacks; or in nightmares; or in words that are compulsively repeated. (2)

Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event. When that trauma leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, damage may involve physical changes inside the brain and to brain chemistry, which changes the person’s response to future stress. The narrator describes about his isolation:

Now our lonely work started. My master abandoned his other works and devised a system for hiding the knowledge. He split up our people and sent them across the world, carrying the doctrine of the Druze. I helped him in all his endeavours, although I never understood then that he was in fact preparing for his own death. He was creating the apparatus that would fight the enemy from beyond the grave, which would protect us all from his wrath. (226)

The former professor Dagr is isolated. His Master sent his men across the world by carrying the doctrine of Druz. He helped him but he did not know that he was digging his own grave. He created the apparatus that would fight the enemy from beyond the grave. Judith Herman writes:

The patient may not have full recall of the traumatic history and may initially deny such a history, even with careful, direct questioning. . . . If the therapist believes the patient is suffering from a traumatic syndrome, she should share this information fully with the patient. Knowledge is power. The traumatized person is often relieved simply to learn the true name of her condition. (23)

The leading theorist of Trauma Jenny Edkins, in her Trauma And Politics Of Memory, explores how remembrance of traumatic events such as wars, famines, genocides and terrorism, and questions the assumed role of commemorations as simply reinforcing state and nationhood. Taking examples from the World Wars, Vietnam, the Holocaust, Kosovo and September 11, Edkins offers a thorough discussion of practices of memory such as memorials, museums, remembrance ceremonies, the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress and the act of bearing witness. She examines the implications of these commemorations in terms of language, political power, sovereignty and nationalism. She argues that some forms of remembering do not ignore the horror of what happened but rather use memory to promote change and to challenge the political systems that produced the violence of wars and genocides in the first place. This wide-ranging study embraces literature, history, politics and international relations, and makes a significant contribution to the study of memory. The novelist says:

Their numbers had been bolstered, moreover by two young men from the streets, armed with old pistols, neighbourhood toughs with gelled hair who had dreamed their own grandiose mafia rackets before the Akkadian had shown a most cavaliar disregard for their posturing. They can along boastfully, taking oaths and fingering their weapons until Kinza silenced them with a stare. (29)

There were many people related to terrorism. The two young men came from the streets with old pistols. They had used gel in their hair for cosmetic purpose. They took oaths and fingered their weapons until Kinza made them silent with a stare. They looked like famous mafia rockets. Cathy Caruth in Unclaimed Experience says:

Trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way it’s much unassimilated nature, the way it was precisely not known in the first instance–returns to haunt the survivor later on. Traumatic experience becomes unrepresentable due to the inability of the brain, understood as the carrier of coherent cognitive schemata, to properly encode and process the event. (4)

Trauma cannot be found in the simple violence or original event but it can haunt the person later. It becomes unrepresentable because of the inability of brain, properly encode of event. The effects of trauma are profound. Trauma brings changes to the individual and s/he recognizes the experience for the integration. The terrorist tells angrily:

Kinza drew his gun and pointed it at Amal’s forehead. Weapons clicked into place all around them. “JAM ? Why bring up those fuckers. You sold us to the Mahdi army, you fucking traitor? After sharing salt with us? After begging us for help? I will put you down like a dog right now, I swear, I will kill every man in this room? (33)

The thug kinza pointed the gun towards Amal’s forehead and abused him. He abused them by saying ‘motherfuckers.’ He compared them with betrayers. He accused him of selling them with Mahdi army and sharing salt with them. He threatened them to kill like a dog and to kill all the people in this room also. Sergeant tells angrily:

“Hoffman, you motherfucker,” Sergeant Tony was a barrel–chested latino was a bar room voice. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“You ran out already?” Hoffman asked, incredulous.

“Not the suppositories!” Tony snapped. “It’s the two fucking civs you sent my way, maricon.”

“They made it alright into Shulla?” Hoffman leaned forward in a whisper? (37)

Hoffman was a corrupt US Marine who helped Dagr and Kinza to smuggle the gold. When Hoffnan went to the border, the sergeant scolded him. He told him that he was searching for him. He did not believe that Hoffman would meet him. The two men sent by him went to shulla and both of them whispered.

Trauma studies in literature outline the turmoil of victims. Unlike this research, the result of trauma has become a tool of a literary and cultural analysis, which undoubtedly keeps close contact with political community and violence respectively. Edkin’s notion of trauma elaborates the trauma’s relation with catastrophic horror, death and violence. She views that we can find trauma everywhere because of the frustrated, devastated destructive world views of modern life. Trauma cannot be isolated from contemporary socio-political situation and it keeps intimate relationship with day-to-day phenomenon. The novelist narrates:

The three ladies had lost a lot. Their menfolk lay dead or dying across the city. Some were buried, some rotting in pieces, some thrown into the air in violent red embers. Sons, husbands, and brothers were absent. It was their natural fate to keep feeding it now. Such things were never vocalized and silence was the order of the house, carefully built on a series of rituals. (41)

The three women lost a lot. They lost their family members across the city of Baghdad some had been buried but some dead bodies were rotten and some were thrown in violent red embers. The male members were killed by terrorists. There sons, husbands, and brothers were absent. They were tired of celebrating the death rituals. They were unfortunate because there were no one to earn in home. There was silence in house.

Sigmund Freud, in Studies in Hysteria, concerned the dynamics of trauma, repression, and symptoms formation. Freud held that an overpowering event, unacceptable to consciousness, can be forgotten and yet returns in the form of somatic symptoms or compulsive, repetitive behaviors. This initial theory of trauma and symptoms became problematic for Freud when he concluded that neurotic symptoms were more often the result of repressed drives and desires than of traumatic events. Moreover Freud notes that the bodily injury “works as role against the development of neurosis” (18). Indeed, survival for consciousness does not seem to be a matter of known experience at all. Unlike the body, however, which protects the organism by means of a spatial boundary between inside and outside, the barrier of the consciousness is a barrier of sensation and knowledge that protects by placing stimulation within an ordered experience of time. What causes traumas, then, is a shock that appears to work very much like a threat to the body’s spatial integrity, but is in fact a break in the mind’s experience of time. Xervish expressed about violence:

Baghdad was a city in flux and even silence was not to last. The safe house existed still in the mind of the little boy Xervish. He had seen in full moon night three men with a sword. He recalled every steps of the old house. He dreamed of the house often. A moment of explosive violence had somehow infected and haunted him remorselessly thereafter. (42)

There city Baghdad was changing rapidly. The city was deserted because of terror, violence, rape. The small boy Xervish talked about the safe house. He saw three men with a sword in full moon night. He recalled the old home. He always thought about the explosive violence. The traumatic situation of violence always hunted his mind. He often dreamed about his own house. The narrator says about Baghdad:

“THIS PLACE IS A MAD HOUSE.” They need to get out of here. They were lost, stranded in corridors. Doors hung in abundance, leading nowhere, sometimes into impossibly shaped rooms or closets or into dark air. There were some stifled murmurs of illicit sex. It seemed to Dagr that they were roaming the entire block with impunity. There was the smell of couscous and a tea kettle wailing against Al Jazeera. (58)

The members of a terrorist organization have been living in a house. They wanted to go out but it was impossible for them to go out. They have been feeling suffocation into the dark air. They have been stranded in the mad house.  They were whispering about illegal sex. The whole block was full of impunity. All the people were wailing against Al Jazeera. Hartman’s viewpoint regarding cultural trauma is manifest in the following lines:

Trauma theory within literary studies does shift attention, in any case, to the medium of words, their forcefulness as well as impotence. It is a shift with both an intriguing and a more dubious consequence. When we speak of the nightmare sufferings of war, or of the Holocaust´s break with civilized values these extra-ordinary determinants of trauma differ from such ordinary ones as an unguarded word or a deliberate insult, or more violent but still random excitations that inflict psychic pain. (2)

Hartman is acutely aware of the pattern in which the consequences of trauma happen to get manifest. Some of consequences of cultural trauma are questionable, according to Hartman.  The questionable consequence of this focus is that it establishes an equivalence between disparate though at times overlapping determinants. Given the existence of the phenomenon called trauma, the variability of human sensitiveness, and the diversity of cultural contexts influencing what is traumatic, it has so far been easier to describe the symptoms or general structure of trauma than to determine in an assured way trauma’s etiology. About the Koran, the novel reveals:

The Koran allows us to hide ourselves and we should not be threatened by unbelievers. They might spend generations pretending to be Sunni or Shi’a or Christian or Jew. They have been persecuted almost from the beginning of their founding. It has made them most adept at hiding. Their religion is organized along ranks of knowledge. (73)

The Koran allows the Muslims to save religion. It allows the Muslims not to be threatened by unbelievers. They pretend to be Sunny or Shi’a or Christian or Jew. The founders of the religions have been prosecuted. So, they tried to hide themselves. They have become accustomed to hide themselves. Their religion is based on knowledge. The narrator expresses about Hamid:

Having spent the past two days in relative boredom, Hamid was not glad. Mother Davala had dispensed with her silent, veiled companions. She learnt that the Americans are looking for Hamid. Every informant rat walking the streets is looking for him. Hassan Salemi is looking for him. His people are everywhere. Now there are whispers in the alleys that some old Mukhabarat is asking for information too. (81)

The Captain Hamid was not happy as American army were looking for him. Hassan Salemi was also looking for him. It was learnt that some old Mukhabarat were also asking for information about him. People were whispering in the street that the men of Hassam Salemi were everywhere. Mother Davala and her companions also felt alienation. Yakin tells about Taha;

He had attacked the security guards several times. Two men had died. The old administrator had been using isolation and electric shock treatment on Taha. The man did not study the result on Taha nor did he notice anything unusual. He was in isolation for almost five years and known of the staffs knew much about him either. (113)

Taha attacked the security guards many times. He also killed two persons. The administration used electric shock treatment for him because he was declared to be insane. He was isolated and alienated since last five years. He had been acquainted with all the staffs. The doctor did not study the result of treatment and did not find him unusual. In this regard, Kathleen Miriam insists about the traumatic disaster:

A traumatic event is an event which threatens injury, death, or the physical body of a child or adolescent which also causing shock, terror or helplessness. Trauma refers to both the experience of being harmed by an external agent as well as response to that experience. Youth who experience trauma may also experience emotional harm or psychic trauma which, if left untreated, can have significant impact. Trauma typically exists along a spectrum which ranges from global, when an event may affect many individuals, to individuals, when the trauma impacts only that individual. (13)

Trauma is physical as well as psychological injury. These injuries are caused by different sorts of events. Traumatic experience damages the healthy and normal psychological framework of the victim. The victim of trauma, especially of psychological trauma, is prone to anxiety, social isolation, anger or emotional numbing, sudden mood shifts, irritability and grief. The novel describes about the murder:

Kinza snaked forward. The spring loaded knife tip took him in the throat, severing all the arteries. Poison flooded his mouth. The edge of his blade crashed into the old man’s outstretched wrist, taking it off. As they both fell, Kinza’s second knife slashed upwards, scoring along Avicenna’s belly, ripping up everything something in the bag of Dagr began to beep. (273)

The terrorist Kinza wanted to get information. He stabbed the old man on his throat and cut all the arteries. As a result, poison came from his mouth. Then, he stabbed again on old men’s wrist. His knife went towards Avicenna’s belly and there was something into the bag of Dagr which began to beep.  There was the hugh explosion of bomb.

Kali Tal’s concept of trauma is wholly applicable in the text. He passes the following views about traumatic symptom which is purely psychological in orientation:

Psychological trauma is direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate.  The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror. (87)

The factors that cause trauma are man-made as well as natural disaster. The sudden occurrences and happenings in an individual’s life shock him or her. Moreover, such events implant stress, agony and pang which render psychology irreparably lost and damaged. That is why those who are traumatically susceptible can hardly maintain the normal framework and integrity. Hence, concrete enumeration of underlying factors helps us to examine and analyze the reality regarding trauma. Hoffman portrays the environment:

The roads seemed to empty and fill with a peculiar magic, war turn, other times bustling with normalcy, reverberating with snatches of conversation, people hailing each other from across the street loud voices that sounded aggressive but were in reality gregarious and good natured. Hoffman figured that people were just tired of staying home scared. He stuck his head out of the window like a dog and took three large lungful’s. (141)

The people were talking about war. The situation was not normal. The roads were empty and deserted. There was the environment of chaos, torture, murder etc. They were aggressive towards the government. They were feeling boredom because of staying in home for a long time. They wanted to learn about peaceful environment like a dog and searched company. The narrator expresses about the atmosphere:

Mother Davala cradled the jar in her arms, as if it were an infant. Tears salted her cheeks in twin tracks, following the crevices of her ancient skin. The other two ladies knitted silently and even the click of their needles sounded mournful. Dagr felt a leaden sickness in his stomach, nausea rising he could smell the blood suffocating him. The hand floating in its artificial womb looked peculiarly feminine. (147)

All people were depressed. Mother Davala was anxious about the deteriorated environment. She was weeping. She brought the jar of water as an infant. Dagr was sick. He felt nausea and the smell of blood. He thought that he would die because of suffocation. So, it can be said that he was pretending to have artificial womb and peculiarly feminine. The other two women were knitting so silently that even the needles did not make any sound. It seems that they were celebrating the mourning session. About the prohibition, the novel presents:

Contrary to his previous believes, members of the imam’s gang did not get a lot of pussy. In fact, sex of any sort except with your wife was strictly forbidden. The prayers had to be said on time, cleanliness had to be maintained, proper dress had to be warned, drinking, foul language, gambling, womanizing were all prohibited. Yakin had been tempted to point out that shooting people and cutting off limbs would probably also be frowned upon by the prophet. (153)

The member of Imam’s gang was not allowed to have sex except their own wives. The prayers must be prayed on time. There was the rule for maintaining cleanliness. Foul language, gambling, womanizing and drinking were strictly prohibited. There was the regulation for wearing of proper dress. Killing was also prohibited for that time.

In the same way, Sigmund Freud describes that trauma as the life threatening of victim with severe death and suffering. So, he states:

The double feeling tenderness and hostility against the deceased which we consider well founded, endeavor to assert itself at the time of bereavement and mourning and satisfaction .The process usually adjusts itself through a special psychic mechanism, which is designated in psychoanalysis as the project. The unknown hostility, of which we are ignorant and of which we do not wish to know is projected from our inner perception. (42)

We get satisfaction after celebrating the mourning of dear ones. It gives solace, tenderness and hostility to traumatic person but people are ignorant about that. It has the great role in our inner psyche according to the theory of psychoanalysis. Yakin tells about his hesitation:

As he was propelled into the virtex of the Imam’s compulsions, it was not the sort of insanity that impinged on competency. With the instinct of a lifetime bully, he registered instantly that the old man was neither paternal nor kindly. He felt caught between two starving wolves and understood that he himself was just a piece of disguised meat. It becomes apparent that his master was insane. His problem was that he believed. (155)

Yakin doubted on his master. He felt that his master was insane and he believed on him. He found that the old man did not believe on him. He had been caught between two starving wolves. He did not want to kill the old man but it was the master’s order to kill him. The old man was neither paternal nor kindly towards him. So, it was his compulsion to kill him. Hassan Salemi says about civilization:

When civilization has let you down, barbarism is the obvious answer. I have spends my whole life in revolution against Saddam, against Americans, against the men who rule us now. Early on in life, I understood one thing. It was a singular lesson. The system supports tyranny, the control of wealth and power by a handful. It requires the vast majority to live in ignorance and weakness to work unceasingly towards some dreams of prosperity just beyond their grasp. The faces change but there habits do not. (156)

In this very text, there is the downfall of civilization, barbarism is established. He spent his whole life against Saddam, Americans and the man who rule them now. He got a lesson that the system supports tyranny the control of wealth and power by handful. A ruler can rule as long as the people are ignorant. The rulers change but their habits do not change. Hassan Salemi revealed about his duty:

I am a soldier of God. And I answer to no man although many may claim to be my master. The only way to win is to tear it all down. When I was a soldier, they offered me guns and dinars and treated with contempt to fight Saddam. Now they offer me U.S dollars in Switzerland to fixed elections. In five years, they will offer me barrels of oil per day and villas in Spain to run the city. (157)

Hassan Salemi regards himself as the soldier of God, although many people want to be his master, he does not answer them. They provided him guns, dinars and ordered to fight for Saddam. They provided him U.S dollars to held elections in Switzerland. They will provide him barrels of oil and villas in Spain to run the city within five years. Yakin tells about the murder of his son:

The American military killed my son. No God on earth would tolerate their existence for long. So I want to kill them the four soldiers have been stationed in Abu Nuwas Street. The vehicles they are in do not exist in official military logs. I am doing God’s works. So this game cannot be won. We must change the game. (158)

Above lines, the terrorist Yakin wants to kill the army who killed his son. He makes plan to kill the four army men who have been stationed in Abu Nuwas Street. Their car does not belong to them. He thinks that if the God has sent him as. He does not tolerate the crime. So, he must change the game to win. Avicenna says about killing:

After eliminating the Americans, I will kill the drug addicts and mass murderers. I will find that locations. I may find three women living there and other men. I may kill them all and burn the house down they are petty criminals whom no one on earth shall miss. They are insignificant in the greater scheme. Killing them will be doing a favour to the rest of us. (159)

Here, Avicenna tells that he will kill drug addicts after killing the Americans. He may find three women and men and kill them by burning the house down. They are criminals and they do not have the right to live. Killing them makes a favour to them. The greater scheme will be significant for murder. No one will miss them on the earth after their death. The novel reads about the tension of Avicenna:

Avicenna felt the sunlight on his face and shuddered a release of long held tension. He assumed that Salemi was a unique creature. The other terrors existed in the world broke upon him now. The very presence of the old man had been oppressive and causing subconscious panic for him. He wanted to kill him after the little game is finished. God will appreciate that. (160)

The terrorist Avicenna wants to get rid of tension and felt the sunlight on his face. He regards Salemi as a unique man since he is known as his master. He had to complete many tasks for his master. He makes up his mind to kill the old man as he has caused subconscious panic for him. He wants to kill him after the completion of another game for which the God will also praise. The novelist presents the situation:

DAGR STOOD ON THE ROOF AND BREATHED. THE SMELL OF BURNING TRASH disturbed the moment, but there was a cool breeze off the river, and he could imagine the Tigris flowing serenely not far away. The river had tasted plenty of blood and ashes. The river didn’t care. He saw across the city from the height, and it all looked peaceful. He could tell no difference from now and before and looked peaceful. (161)

Dagr went to the roof of his house and breathed into the open air. When he had a look to the surrounding environment, he found that there was the smell of burning trash and he imagined about the Tigris flowing smoothly as the river had tasted many types of blood and ashes but it did not care. The city looked peaceful for him and he could not find the difference between now and before and looked peaceful.

There exists today both a wide consensus among theorists on a certain definition of trauma, and a strong and sometimes violent debate about specific aspects of trauma, notably as regards its relation to memory. The importance of Judith Herman’s work is that she is one of the pioneering clinicians in the field as well as a major player in the theoretical debate.

Everyone seems to agree that a traumatic event “overwhelm[s] the ordinary human adaptations to life,” as Herman puts it. “Unlike commonplace misfortunes,” she writes, “traumatic events generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with violence and death” (33). A more neurologically based definition would be that a traumatic event—or “traumatic stressor”—produces an excess of external stimuli and a corresponding excess of excitation in the brain. When attacked in this way, the brain is not able to fully assimilate or “process” the event, and responds through various mechanisms such as psychological numbing, or shutting down of normal emotional responses. Some theorists also claim that in situations of extreme stress, dissociation takes place: the subject “splits” off part of itself from the experience, producing “multiple personalities” in the process. The diagnosis of MPD (multiple personality disorder) was once very rare, but became quite common for a while in 1980s and 1990s. Symptoms of MPD, according to clinicians who diagnose it, always indicate earlier trauma, even if—or especially if—the trauma is not remembered by the patient. Similarly, the novel further reads:

It surprised him that everything would endure that soon the bitter little points of his life would be forgotten. He couldn’t recall ever standing on the roof and watching the sun rise. He missed the rush of stumbling out of bed, bickering over the sink with his wife, trying to make breakfast and coffee at the same time while she fussed over the girl combing hair. It seemed far away now, as far as the river. (161)

Hoffman remembered his past days. He recalled always standing on the roof and watching the sunrise in the morning. He remembered about the rush of getting off the bed, taking a bath with his wife, making breakfast and coffee. His present life had become different from his past life like a river. He wanted to forget his past days but it came to his frequently. Dagr feels about his mental condition:

Rumbling in the container of the Black water truck, Dagr felt the acute discomfort of the ride and realized with faint chagrin that while he was facing certain death. He updated his mental inventory of various hells to include this. He tried to fix his mind on trivial matters, his varied aches and pains, the itch on the inside of his calf to reduce the mounting apprehension of certain death. He supposes it was because he had a singular lack of imagination. (164)

While going to Baghdad in black water truck, Dagr became restless. He felt as facing certain death. He wanted to update and fix his mind on his destination but he could not get success. He felt aches, pain, and the itch inside his calf. He thought it was because of the lack of imagination in him. Caruth says:

In recent years, trauma has become a national obsession. War, terrorism, and natural disaster has brought pain and suffering into the media limelight, fueling cultural expressions that engage in public outpourings of hyper-emotionality. This trend is lending a certain vogue to the post-Lacanian crowd and effectively dusting off psychoanalytic criticism, one of the oldest forms of literary critique that is still in use. Thus we see numerous graduate/undergraduate courses and MLA panel talks on topics such as: trauma and memory, collective trauma and national identity, post-colonial trauma, rape, holocaust literature, etc. Ultimately, trauma is a very interdisciplinary and engaging topic that won’t be losing interest any time soon (110).

Trauma studies constitute a huge field today, keeping whole armies of theorists—philosophers, literary scholars, and historians as well as clinicians—very busy. There are many reasons for this, starting with the enormous and still growing interest in the Holocaust and other collective historical traumas, and extending to the increased clinical awareness of sexual abuse as a phenomenon of “everyday life” for both adults and children. The narrator reveals about the terrorism:

A narrow stairway down and they ran into two men sprinting up, both armed with revolvers. It was a blind corner. Dagr bowled into them and in his panicked state tripped over the steps, sending everyone tumbling back. He landed heavily on top of a beard. He scrambled away from the dead beard. It caused an awful stink. He found the dungeon. (170-1)

Dagr ran downstairs with two men who had revolvers. In the blind corner, he went upstairs. As a result, people were afraid. He went to the top of the building and found a dead body of a man having beard. There was a bad odour. He found that the man had been dead for a long time earlier. It was the dungeon. The novel expresses:

Seventeen pieces and a body still alive, hooked into a fairly newish Japanese life support unit. A head lolled on the cot, earless, tongueless, noseless, something barely human, a lone eye. Ears floating like petals in the brine. A scattering of teeth. A mind long fled. It is incredible that he is alive. He is an expert. It was some kind of holocaust. (172)

There was a holocaust in which seventeen people died but a man was still alive. He belonged to Japanese life support unit. He lay on the cot without ear, tongue, eye and nose. He had only one eye. His ear was floating like flowers in water. His teeth had been scattered on the ground. It seemed that he was an expert.

Similarly, Kirby Farrell defines trauma as psychocultural because the injury entails interpretation of the injury. Sigmund Freud’s history of the Jews entitled Moses and Monotheism also raises the work of trauma projecting the Jews’ persecution to the liberation, the return from the captivity to freedom. Veena Das in Trauma and testimony reflects the role of anthropology to contextualize sectarian violence in India which she contrasts along with Achille Mbembe’s discourse of what he calls the failure of the collective imaginaire of Africa. Jenny Edkins in Trauma Time and Politics examines memories of traumatic events as relationally in the face of death’s ‘gift of unhinged release’. Tony Kushner brings Holocaust Testimony to justify the complexity and the richness in understanding ordinary people’s constructions of their histories, with their   silence and mythologies. With “First World War and de-civilizing process” with violence, Larry Ray highlights the relationship between commemorations of the dead in war within the framework that draws on Freud’s distinction between mourning and melancholia. Geoffery Heartman focuses “a remarkable degree of precision remains, because the memory of evil is first and the last memory of an offence, independent of the justice suffered.” (114)

These critics argues the various facets of trauma with different notions, build logics tending towards traumatic figure. They try to evolve the fact that the injury of unspeakable pain is to make speakable through transmitting the event and stories of the witnesses’.The narrator says:

And then the hospital, the sheets red and then brown and then white again. They took her to the hospital and the doctor spoke to him like a human because he was an educated man. His wife stared at her with wild eyes and knotted fingers. They changed the sheets to take away the blood. There was the acrid cut of disinfectant and the pan with some parts off her gathered, the shoe, the leg-no point attaching it back. The doctor advised to call their family. (173-4)

The wounded people were brought to hospital. The white sheets of hospital became red and brown because of bleeding. The doctor talked to the person as humankind because he was an educated man. His wife was annoyed. The wounded had only shoes but no legs and the doctor advised for his proper burial. Yakin tells about the woman:

Yakin didn’t know the woman who stood beside the old man but she was clearly a class apart from anything he had ever seen in his short life. The way she wore her scarf, it was a fashion statement, a sex bomb, not what the clerics had had in mind when they had dreamt up the hizab. Would she ever give him a second look? Fuck no. she was even throwing the imam off balance. (231)

The old man came with a woman. Yakin had not ever seen her in his life. The manner of wearing her scarf made her a sex bomb and fashion statement. He thought that she would not meet him again band he could not have sex with her. Imam was also attracted towards her. Hoffman tells about his house:

The stench of rotting flesh and chemicals hit Hoffman. An olfactory assault coiled around the room like a serpent. The sharp edge of chlorine was strong enough to make his eyes water and his nose tingle. For a fat man he had a surprisingly weak stomach. Everything was in chaos. Books, journals, references lay haphazardly wherever they had been last used. (190)

Being a member of terrorist group Hoffman was surrounded by the order of rotten meat and chemicals. Water came from his eyes and his nose tingled due to chlorine. Although he was a fat man, his stomach was weak. The things were scattered. The books, journals, references were scattered in his room.

Saad Hossain’s Escape from Baghdad captures the pure insanity of war. The purpose of the research is to uncover the traumatic experience through the text. Characters of the novel have been the victim of psychological distress followed by traumatic experience. Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs because of a severely distressing event and memorization. The narratives of war, torture, rape genocide, natural disaster etc. are studied from psychoanalytical perspective in psychological trauma.

Thus, the text highlights the experience of the traumatic effect, exploring the dimension of past memory of the Baghdad attacks. The trauma is somehow lesser by the narrator through the work of narrativization the real event. Hence, the text from ‘working through’ and ‘acting out’ tries to show the traumatic condition of the characters and the way they try to come in the normal situation

Getting out of Baghdad is not an easy task. The city is haunted by murderers. Dagr and Kinza want to escape from Baghdad and smuggle the gold to Mosul and they get help from Hoffman. The member of terrorist organization known as Mahdi Army plans for killing people. The terrorists think that the God has sent them on the earth to fight and kill to the criminals. He does not tolerate the crime. So, it is their duty to win the war.

The characters in the novel are depressed due to deteriorated environment of Baghdad. The streets of the city Baghdad have become deserted and silence. They feel suffocation in home. They have been stranded in home and are in search of better environment. They are isolated, alienated and depressed due to murder, bombings, ambush etc. There is the absence of male members such as sons, husbands, and brothers in home. The hospitals are full of wounded and the bed sheets are covered with blood. Dagr has become restless. Although, the novel is full of the events of war, crime, tortures, and murderer, it is also regarded as anti-war novel as the novelist Saad Z Hossain denounces war. He is anxious about the chaotic situation of the world and suggests avoiding war.

Works Cited

Baral, Raju. “Terror of Iraq War in Saad Z Hossain’s Escape from Baghdad.New Horizons.10 Aug.2016:5.

Barbara Hoffert;Hossain’s Perplexingly Novel Escape From Baghdad. The New York Times.14 Oct.5

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Doshi, Tisani. “Portrayal of War in Hossain’s Escape from Baghdad. The Testimonials.13 Oct.2015.3.

Edkins, Jenny. Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Farrell, Kirby. Purple Hibiscus. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2003.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. London: Hogarth Press, 1953.

Hartman, Geoffrey. The Struggle against the Authentic: Parallax, London: Vintage, 2004.

Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery. University of Wisconsin Press, 1961.

Hossain, Saad Z. Escape From Baghdad. New Delhi: Rupa Co., 2015.

LaCapra, Dominick. Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory and Trauma. Ithaca: Cornel UP, 1994.

Miller, T.S. “Existentialism in Escape from Baghdad.” Booklist. 8 Apr.2015.13.

Mirian, Kathleen. Fallouts of Trauma. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reiner, Carl. “Political Statement in Escape from Baghdad.” Kirkus Review.15 Jan.2015.8.

Seliya .C.B. Chronicles of conscience: A study of Saad Z Hossian. London: Seeker and Webbig, 2016

Tal, Kali. World of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma. Cambridge: CUP, 1996.

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