A Portal in Space
by Mahmoud Saeed
A Portal in Space, set in Basra, Iraq, during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), follows the lives of Anwar, a newly minted architect, and the other members of his affluent family as they attempt to maintain a sense of normality during the frequent bombing attacks from Iran. When Anwar joins the Iraqi army and then goes missing in action, his family struggles to cope with uncertainty over his fate. His mother falls into depression and secludes herself in the family home, while his father shifts his attention from his duties as a judge to the weekly pilgrimage to Baghdad seeking information on his son—and to Zahra, the young widow he meets there.
Emotionally engaging, A Portal in Space is a wry, wise tale of human beings striving to retain their humanity during a war that is anything but humane. Mahmoud Saeed succeeds brilliantly in bringing the sights and sounds of Iraq to life on the page—whether in a bunker on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq War or in the parlor of a fortune-teller in Baghdad. As Zahra says of the novel she is writing: “It is a normal novel that contains love, war, life, deceit, and death.”