Mohammad Tommalieh (محمد طمليه), through excerpts from his collection “Happens to Me of All People”.
In an environment were ingenuity is rare and when creativity leads to obscurity, the “word-artist” Mohammad Tommalieh carved his niche. In an environment that starves its artists and demands compromises in substance and style, as a basic prerequisite for survival, he refused, yet thrived.
Mohammad grew up an orphan in Wadi al Haddadeh: “حي شعبي” as he likes to call it (Ar: people’s or popular neighborhood is the Arabic euphuism for deprived projects). “It is a fact that the worst procedure a person can go through is to be born poor.” “He confesses that he committed an unforgivable idiocy while growing up: He read too many books to the point that he became polite and incompetent, and hence, incapable of rising to the level of the gutter surrounding him”. No one incident can define his childhood more than that described in his short story “The Shoes”: (A charity visits a school to distribute shoes. An “educator” calls up each student, asks him “what’s your foot number (Ar: shoe size)?” and proceeds to pick a suitable pair from the pile and hand it to the kid. “Until it was my turn; I swear I did not know that the shoe is supposed to have a number.”)
At one point, Um Jamal handed him a suitcase and a little money and said: “Go to Al Mustansiriyyah University in
At the time, “he resided in a miserable room with his temporary (for two years!) roommate Emad Hajjaj. They definitely had a cooking pot, as proven by the various dishes they invented, which resulted in their excessive thinning, which later affected Abu Mahjoob as well. They had a little hateful black and white TV, whose despicable little screen provided some entertaining scrambles. They had a winter coat that Emad used as an extra cover during the colder nights. Most awkwardly, they had a Wudu’ (washing before prayers) jug, that occupied a corner of the room, yet neither of them bothered to question its purpose.”
Later, he moved his residence to the floors of the “Writer’s
Mohammad was accused of being a “denouncer”. (Under the emergency laws and the anti-communism laws, anyone under the suspicion of being an alleged member of the “destructive” parties was detained, all his/her property was confiscated, was banned from public or private employment, and would have the passport withheld, until he/she publicly denounces the allegations and pledges the full allegiance and loyalty to his majesty). He followed up the shameful act by publishing “The Enthusiastic Bastards” referring to the comrades. But was he really wrong? At least he continued to hold on to the idea and its principles, contrary to those ex-comrades “who became ministers or minister-hopefuls, who lined up among the trails of brokers, who reduced the explicit blood to an item on the agenda of a meeting, and unlike those who celebrated the 50th anniversary of the party’s first march on the marble-clad, municipality-owned (Al Hussein Cultural Center)”.
Mohammad was not ashamed to announce that it is okay for a man to be a lover. “When he was young, he had multiple “tools” that he employed to woe the college coeds, and he was willing to travel the earth looking for a girl he has never met.” “He was always in need for a one-sided love story. A relationship that burns, hurts and humiliates. Allows for enough pain, constantly ignites and energizes the commitment of heroic acts, with the main purpose of impressing the arrogant woman.” He eventually came to realize that “the courageous lovers are an extinct breed. They only exist in the worlds created by his favorite authors. Those who convinced him, and he was ready to accept, that a talented person need not bother about anything: the college education, the job, the wife are all signs of nonsense. That wisdom, respect and reverence are all terms more suitable for the domesticated, those looking forward for a calm aging process (with all what it contains of mucus).”
The brief, sarcastic and emotional articles reveal a unique style. The attempts to emulate it usually end up with catastrophic and laughable results. Only he can make the short successive phrases and their few words worth a thousand pictures. It is impossible not to relate to the painful realities presented in the most colorful way, although most of the time the main colors are black and grey. “Smart people are among us, but we never meet any of them, and we never feel that they have any influence on our lives. While stupidity flourishes…General and sacred stupidity.”
Mohammad was diagnosed with a tumor in his mouth. It must be the result of the chronic sadness and eternal loneliness. It must be the “enormous overall devastation that he is a part of; a devastation that he could not salvage, yet he was never able to coexist with.” It must be
Rafeeq Mohammad, Please wait for a few more years, at least for one last pilgrimage to “Al Marbidd Poetry Festival” and one last walk and along the sides of Abu Nuwwass Street.