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The Woman of the Flask

The Woman of the Flask

Selim Matar
Translated by Peter Clark
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    The Woman of the Flask
    Book Description:

    The Woman of the Flask is a most original novel—a blend of grim realism and fantasy. Two Iraqi exiles reach Switzerland, having escaped from Saddam’s Iraq. One of them, Adam, has brought with him an old flask found among the possessions of his late father who came from the Marshlands of southern Iraq. He polishes it and opens it: a fabulously beautiful nubile young woman appears. She has, it emerges, been the lover of his ancestors going back five thousand years. The novel weaves together the threads of her memories of Adam’s ancestors, his day-to-day life and his work as a computer programmer, his fellow-exile, his Swiss wife, and his coping with the woman of the flask. She is not happy with immortality, and Adam and his friend confront both a European bureaucracy and an alternative world of magic and fantasy. The reader is swept along by a dizzyingly compelling narrative, unsure where the story is going but fascinated by the journey. The novel reflects the complexities of the world of today’s Iraqis—an unprecedented history, a grimmer recent past, but with prospects that challenge imagination.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-212-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xx)

    Before this strange and fantastic story ofThe Woman of the Flaskis launched into the world, I have to tell you right at the start that I am not responsible for it and took no part in any of its happenings: it has nothing to do with me. In fact I have published it only from a sense of obligation. When I stumbled upon this tale by chance a few weeks ago, I thought I would either burn it or throw it into the lake. I failed in all my efforts to identify the author. I am publishing it...

  4. Chapter 1
    (pp. 1-12)

    The story of Adam and that remarkable woman, the ‘woman of the flask,’ started years ago. To you the story may appear absurd, indeed outside the realms of reason, but yet it happened. I don’t know whether it was pure chance that brought me into contact with the central characters of this story or whether it was fate clothed in the mantle of innocent chance.

    More than nine years before he met her—to be precise, in the winter of 1978—Adam had decided to leave his country, Iraq, and his city, Baghdad. He was just over twenty-two years of...

  5. Chapter 2
    (pp. 13-24)

    One lifetime was not enough to listen to all her stories. One world poured out of another, one history led to another. It was endless.

    She related that she used to be an ordinary girl, like any other girl. Her name was Hajir. She lived with her people in the ancient kingdom of Ur in southern Iraq, in the age following the great flood that buried the whole land. Her father was a prince from a divine line of kings. He spent his life in combat with tribes of raiders coming from the mountains on the northern and eastern frontiers....

  6. Chapter 3
    (pp. 25-38)

    Of course, dear reader, I don’t want to draw this story out. I can tell you that from that day a new life started for our friend Adam. Perhaps I can summarize and say that it was a turning point, not only in his life but in mine as well. You will also see that the new life was quite extraordinary and brimful of unusual happenings.

    On the first night in which Adam entered the world of the woman of the flask, his body remained in this world but his soul crossed a threshold into a world defined by this...

  7. Chapter 4
    (pp. 39-50)

    As you see, I was beginning to see Adam as some ancient citadel from which the winds of time had stripped its beauty and grandeur, but was now restored to a former glory by the woman of the flask. Her magic and artful skill had infused a vigor into him and displayed to the world all his secrets.

    One cold spring evening Adam came to see me in my room. We were sitting in a dim light half listening to some songs from the Atlas Mountains on the radio. We were smoking some pot from Morocco and sipping white wine....

  8. Chapter 5
    (pp. 51-66)

    You may agree with me that Adam was sliding more and more into the labyrinthine world of Hajir. Without any restraint he followed his instincts with her. In every word she uttered there was gathered all the allure and coquetry of the women of the ages she had lived through. Without disclosing to me his real intention, he asked me to find some appropriate function where he would be able to dance with her as well as with Marilyn. He promised to pay for my entrance fee.

    It was a Saturday evening in spring. After dinner at his place with...

  9. Chapter 6
    (pp. 67-80)

    Wasting no time, I am plunging into the chapter in which Adam announced his wish to liberate Hajir. I’d more or less predicted this. Adam had not changed in spite of his isolation over the course of seven years. The world of his houri took him back once more to when he aspired to be a prophet striving to change history and better the world. He started to see the woman of the flask as a prisoner who lived in a state of perpetual servitude, knowing nothing of life except through the pleasures and torments of her lovers. She came...

  10. Chapter 7
    (pp. 81-92)

    To cut a long story short, I will launch straightaway into this final chapter. You will be able finally to make a judgment as to whether it is a last chapter or if in every beginning there is an end. As you will see it is a chapter of separations, of absences, and of moving on. We reached Geneva, eager to check out the liquid that liberated our houri. From the airport we went straight to my flat. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and the June sun was adorning the sky above the lake, making the water shimmer...

  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 93-94)