Poppies of Iraq review – the ruins of a lost childhood

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Brigitte Findakly’s moving memoir, drawn by Lewis Trondheim, captures a more innocent time both for herself and the home country she had to give up

Brigitte Findakly begins her wise, touching and wonderfully vivid graphic memoir, Poppies of Iraq, in the archaeological ruins of Nimrud, which lie outside Mosul where she grew up. Founded by the Assyrians more than 3,000 years ago, Nimrud holds a special place in her memory, for as a girl it was often to its dusty remains that her parents – her Iraqi dentist father and his French-born wife – would drive their family on Fridays, a picnic stowed in the back of their car. There she would climb on the ancient stones, and sometimes her father would photograph her by the huge man-headed winged lions that guarded what had once been the city’s palace gates.

This was a long time ago: Findakly was born shortly after the 1958 coup in which King Faisal II was executed, and almost a decade before Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party came to power. Things have changed in the years since. In the 60s, the Iraqi government was so keen to preserve the site that those leaving it, and the ancient city of Hatra a little further away, were subject to searches so soldiers could check they had not removed some precious artefact.

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