Rodaan qui se présentait initialement comme Al Galidi (son nom complet étant Rodaan Al Galidi) est un écrivain d’origine iraquienne. Comme les naissances n’étaient pas répertoriées dans son pays à l’époque où il est né, il ne connaît pas sa date de naissance. Il a étudié dans une école d’ingénieurs en Iraq avant de fuir son service militaire et est arrivé au Pays Bas en 1998. Sa demande d’asile ayant été rejetée, il ne put suivre des cours officiels de néerlandais. Il apprit alors la langue par lui-même et commença à écrire. Il est maintenant considéré comme un écrivain néerlandais et reçoit des allocations d’instituts néerlandais ainsi que flamands.
En 2007, Rodaan a été de ceux qui ont bénéficié de l’amnistie générale accordée par le parlement néerlandais aux demandeurs d’asile arrivés dans le pays avant 2001 et il y habite encore aujourd’hui.
Translated by Brian Doyle
Geert ate his soup and thought that praying had something to do with the words ‘before’ and ‘after’. He then started to count the words in his mind that could be combined with ‘before’ and ‘after’: eating, sleeping, drinking, peeing, shitting, farting, thinking, resting, talking, raining, holidays, school, being bored, shower, dentist, burping, homework... After each word Geert pictured his grandma and grandpa praying, and before each word making a sign of the cross. The faster he thought, the faster the spoon moved between the plate and his mouth, so fast that grandma and grandpa could no longer keep up with it. When he was done grandma made a sign of the cross. Geert watched his grandma’s hands and how they moved, walked up to her, touched the places on her body where she had made the sign of the cross, and looked for the same places on his own body. Grandma and grandpa then brought him upstairs. Geert headed for the room in which his mother had always slept as if he knew the way. He opened the door and came face to face with a huge painting of the crucifixion of Jesus hanging on a wall. Jesus was surrounded by angels and soldiers, with Mary kneeling in front of him. There were photos of his mother on the other walls, one with a toothless smile when she was seven weeks old, another in which she had two oversized front teeth, and others in which teeth appeared one by one until she had a complete set. Then her smile disappeared in the house full of silence. Geert stayed in his mother’s room. Every time his grandma or grandpa opened the door they found him playing with the building blocks, teddy bears and dolls that had belonged to his mother and the pillowcases, bedspread and towels that had been left out for him. When it was time for dinner, grandma opened the door to call him. She jumped. He had made a cross with the blocks and secured a plush monkey to it without nails. He had arranged another cuddly toy in front as a sorrowing Madonna. Soldiers stood at either side, and the pillowcases to the rear had become clouds and the pillows mountains. In an exact copy of the painting, the monkey was illuminated from behind; Geert had set up the bedside lamp at its back. Grandma could hardly believe her eyes. She crossed herself and ran to grandpa who was convinced that Geert had to have the devil in him if he was clever enough to construct such a thing.