The blog from Baghdad

While at the library the other day, I found a book which I’ve been reading with great interest, partly because it started out life in cyberspace.

I have mentioned some books which started out as blogs but made it into the world of print, due to the popularity they achieved online. The Bagdhad Blog by Salam Pax is the first I’ve actually laid my hands on and is living proof that electronic publishing is not summarily going to kill print.

It is a fascinating account of the author’s life and experiences in Baghdad during Saddam Hussein’s last months in power, and the subsequent allied invasion and occupation of Iraq. He attracted a worldwide audience to his blog, which he originally set up to communicate with a friend who was studying in Jordan.

The name Salam Pax is a pseudonym derived from the Arabic and Latin for peace and it is quite clear why he had to conceal his identity, when you read his forthright views on Saddam and his regime.

The writing is studded with gems of humour including a list of emergency supplies including “Candles, Alcohol (maybe red wine?), Good books and Crunchie munchies’ which, he thought, should get him through the allied bombing quite nicely.

He quotes some direct English translations of anti-western slogans which were bandied about by the regime. These include ‘Bush Go Hell’ and the immortal ‘Down Down Bush and his Tail Blair’.

During an epic party, a drunken Frenchman nearly drove Salam and two companions through the gate of a presidential palace. Salam records himself and the other Iraqi as screaming with fear at the possible consequences, while the two foreigners in the car laughed at them.

The blog was entitled Where is Raed? and can still be found at dear_raed.blogspot.com but it could be difficult to read unless you can convince your browser to replace the black page background with a white one. Hint: look under the options settings, and you should find an option to make pages display with a white background.

Salam Pax kept making entries in the blog until 2004 when he took a sideways hop to another blog titled Shut up you fat whiner!, at justzipit.blogspot.com. He updated that until 2006, but I have been unable to find out what happened to him after that.

I wonder what you call the book of a blog. A blook? Whatever it is, The Baghdad Blog gives you a taste of Iraqi life, a good bit of humour, the ever-looming certainty that the allies are going invade, and what happens when they do.

Looking on the web for more Salam Pax info, I came across an entry on another site, at tinyurl.com/5988pp, about the Baghdad Battery, which is in the museum there. It is about 2000 years old, made of clay, and looks for all the world like a battery.

No one knows if it really is, or what it was used for, but replicas of it have been used to electroplate metal. I needed a couple more paragraphs and thought I’d throw that interesting fact in for good measure.

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