Rafting the Tigris

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Rafting the Tigris was a novella krozruch was working on from January, 2017.


The story came about when krozruch was trying to disengage from a novel he had been writing but was still trying to maintain some of the habits of writing he had had over the summer holidays. It was inspired by a New Yorker article on the Mossul Dam[1] which krozruch had read in what most likely was the first issue of the magazine he had received on a subscription he had been given for Christmas.


A former fixer looks back on his life in Iraq in the days after he was refused re-entry to the USA where he had been working as a taxi driver in New York and where he had initially returned for his father's funeral which took place after he was caught up in a bombing. His father had been a fixer all his life, much longer than the term had ever come to be used and acquired the aspirant whiff of professionalism. He had travelled back to the Mossul Dam where his father always claimed in his tall tales to have worked in the old bad old days in Saddam's 1970s. There it was that he took off on a motorcycle with an old camera when he did not have a clue what he could do with himself in his old nation even when so many people around him in his old town assumed he must have the answers to all economic woes being possessed of that entrepreneurial sense that God has endowed all Americans. It is there he meets Dom, a young, reflective, but cockily gregarious American son of a military man who has taken to posting videos of his first kayak descents of the Tigris when the water is dumped from the dam. He writes from Istanbul of his various visits to the dam which had at that time been liberated from ISIS, where he meets Dom who is staying there with a number of similarly laidback friends. They have more or less taken over the running of the dam, many of the specialist staff having fled or been murdered. Dom is the group's charismatic leader, and there is indeed something about him. He is a strange blend of jock and liberal intellectual. He films his videos which he believes can reach people who would otherwise never think about the issues on that side of the world. His father does not approve of him, but has been indulgent all the same, securing the area around the dam even more vigilantly while his son is making a video, and arranging for people on patrols to help him and even record sections of his videos from moving Humvees. It would be in the dam that our narrator began his unexpected new career as, first, a fixer, and then a photographer, shooting with the broken old rangefinder he had swapped for something on his way and which the lads, with Dom primary amongst them, had enthusiastically arranged for him to fix. These lads would be his first contacts to the military and journalistic teams for whom he would work in those years. Finally, it would be the photographs of the places in the Tigris flood plain that he would visit on kayak once the dam had burst its banks, the eerie hotels journalists had once stayed, shot from the floors now accessible through their broken windows, that would make him famous, much as it had been the soviet invasion of 1968 that had made Josef Koudelka. He does not now know what happened to Dom. What he does know is how haunted he feels by everything that ever did happen to either of his two countries. He maintains his half a life in Istanbull, but though he loves the city, and though he would once have given everything for his new life, he feels like he has nothing left.

== Development

The novella was likely began when krozruch committed a file entitled Rafting_the_Tigris.html to the Radical Transparency git repo in a commit which took the name "Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words? 2/2", a quote from James Joyce's Ulysses which he had been using in an attempt to disengage from both contemporary politics and Going Dark which he had been writing before his second year as a Montessori teacher began and the demands on him became too much. The commmit contains the following Writing/Project Diary entry:
"9th January. I begin the day talking about the Davy safety lamp and the iPhone, both invented on this day, go to the library after work to write a story about kayakers taking over an important dam in the Middle East and then go on to talk about the international order with Woodstock. She has been scared by the doctor talking about nukes. I explain that he is reading all of the Russian propaganda, however intelligent he is, and that the whole of the international order has collapsed. We talk about this. Spend a little time on the balcony as we had promised ourselves not to, and then we watch a corrupted Sopranos episode - the second of season three - in which Tony's mother dies. After that, as I think about cleaning the kitchen, check my Twitter, though I try not to, and find that Zygmunt Bauman has died. I remember his Liquid Loves was the first book I ordered here in Prague in 2004. I had read a piece with him sometime after my politics degree, down in the basement of a shared house in Scabtown. It was an appropriate time for him to die, sadly. I just hope people will read what he says."

There are no plans to develop Rafting the Tigris for the Marginálie zine at this time, though should the concept prove to be resilient and, frankly, should it lead to an income stream, it could be a good candidate for development towards an increasingly permissive creative commons license where later phases could permit contributions from those who are familiar with the story and broadly supportive of its aims, but who know a great deal more than its author about some of the regions of the world it describes.

The novella would later be developed on typewritten drafts, but would stall as that tough year in education wore on.

Footnotes and references