An article written by Sarah – The Arabic Novel @thearabicnovel

2016. Feurat Alani is a 36-year-old French journalist. Social networks are in full bloom, when he takes over Twitter to express himself more intimately on a past that lives in him. He decides to cover in a few tweets a particular period, that of his first encounter with the land of his parents, Iraq.

The first tweets are slowly emerging on the subject. One, two, then three to reach the 1,500 milestone, fragments of life posted as a reminiscence that resonate and captivate the crowds.

While on this platform, one must be brief, Feurat stretches out, pours out and tells himself through the eyes of the nine-year-old child he was. This gathering of tweets will give birth to a book, « The Perfume of Iraq« , tribute to an Iraq of a thousand perfumes.

This book illustrated by Leonard Cohen is intended to be a true olfactory experience, like the first ice cream taken by Feurat upon his arrival in Iraq.

The summer sun then hits the city of Baghdad hard, when he is offered an apricot flavoured ice cream that exalts him. The apricot will become for him one of the flavors of this country that should have been entirely his own.

It is these simply human experiences that Feurat will strive to transmit. For it’s not just the bombs and their ashen haloes in Iraq, there are all these fragrances and tastes, from the texture of his aunt’s lipstick to the musky smell of the surrounding soldiers, not to mention the full-bodied coffee or cardamom tea served with date-filled cookies, which embody his escapade. 

This comeback to his parental roots took place for the first time in 1989, when Iraq led by Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait for a period of seven months. Later in 1991, it was the United States that struck back, bombing the country. Feurat will multiply his travels over this period, always with the tenderness of childhood, to which will be added later the astonishment of a young teenager and finally the full maturity of an adult who has become a great reporter.

These different points of view are beautifully transcribed by Leonard Cohen. The illustrations have proportions that suggest childlike discovery, the colors are intensified, the shadows have a predominant role, often threatening. Finally, the tones take on a more pastel complexion with maturity, and not all the lines are drawn to recreate the truthfulness of the memories.

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To further enhance the olfactory experience, a series of mini-documentaries has also been adapted by Arte, available in full by clicking here (in French). The book and the series are available for consumption at the same time. These tweets of summer 2016 then come to life, moving in this palette of screaming colors carried by the suave voice of Feurat Alani himself, blending with traditional music.

Feurat confesses in an interview for a French television channel :

« I have an olfactory memory, that’s why I transcribed it like that. »

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For those who would like to extend the experience in his universe, Feurat offers us to explore his memories once again, through his new book « Falloujah – my lost campaign ». This time, it is the great reporter who is summoned to return on the traces of Fallujah, the city that was overthrown by the Islamic state.

Between personal and professional, the author returns to these ruins that border the river from which his first name, « Euphrates », is taken. A work that we would very much like to see adapted also to the screens.


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Sarah, from her pseudonym The Arabic Novel, is a young author passionate about the artistic and literary universe of the Arab world. She runs an Instagram account and a YouTube channel dedicated to the expression of this passion. The Arabic Novel also conducts video interviews with authors, where she questions them about their creative process.

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