By Zekria Ibrahimi
Key Themes: schizophrenia, homelessness, story, sanity
THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTMARES OF ABDUL HUSSAIN is intended to be not a well- engineered best- seller, but, instead, a painful analysis of the soul of a schizophrenic who feels crucifed by confinement and drugs. There is no escape from his illness, his hell, from the bleak psychiatric system that wants to convert him into a passive nobody. He absconds from a mental hospital only to be a confused, penniless vagrant on London's cruel streets.
This nervous book is about how British society can be uncaring, indeed pitiless, towards those having the misfortune of not being able to conform.
The complex, the bewildering, schisms of class and race are uneasily investigated according to the viewpoint of our schizophrenic protagonist- Abdul Hussain. He tears through the existence of others. From the stuck up daughter of a baronet, to an elderly, despairing Afro- Caribbean mental patient, even to Mephistopheles in the abyss of Hell, we discover, with as much discomfort as possible, how NORMALITY can itself be a sort of curse, a cage that does not let the spirit fly and sing. Abdul Hussain is the brittle prism through which all that is ugly and unpleasant about ourselves is refracted- and we may not wish to see how hideous our pomp and pretence may really be. Abdul is at the very nasty interface between homelessness and mental illness. His is a mind that never is secure. He wanders from crisis to crisis, and becomes ever more wounded, ever more unstable.
Here, then, is your entrance into schizophrenia. Feel entangled in its conundrums, its puzzles, its riddles, its dilemmas. These turbulent pages are a confrontation between SANITY and INSANITY- where SANITY is often the villain, and INSANITY is the martyr. Knot after knot of contradiction should encompass and enfold you.
And, in the end, it is the brutal conventional lies that must always destroy freedom, full of a sweet fragility...
About the Author
Zekria Ibrahimi (born in 1959) is defined by his schizophrenia. It first hit him long ago, in his late teens. He is fifty years old now, grey and frail, almost a pensioner, and he does not always want to remember how, as an adolescent in the late 1970's, he suddenly became afraid of everything surrounding him, and, worst of all, of himself. He would run around the countryside and knock at the doors of strangers because he feared the apocalypse was pursuing him ... He would pick up rubbish outside in alleys and streets and hoard it in his not very palatial lodgings ... He was always wandering away from home, searching for ... what would never be found again ... the straight route, the level way ... He was a tramp, freezing during the nights in public toilets where he had various unsavoury insects as company on the cold concrete …
There were years of pain when his schizophrenia became almost his only companion- albeit a sadistic one, punishing him even as he hugged it. Perhaps, to echo both R. D. Laing and Emily Dickinson, it is the entire globe, it is general society, that is truly insane. Schizophrenics simply burrow all too deeply under the surface. They reach the very core of the savage reality in us all. Most varnish over the anarchic truth within through the superficial sham paraded as 'civilization'. Schizophrenics prefer to be uncomfortably honest barbarians.
Eventually, after much psychotic shouting on Hammersmith Broadway, the hapless Zekria was confined at the Charing Cross unit in the West London Mental Health Trust. Following the unsafe unstable freedom of his schizophrenia, came the restrictions of Section 3. He would not have survived without the multi- racial compassion of the individual doctors and nurses in Charing Cross. Yet the overall SYSTEM remains an ogre of rules and restraints, and the INSTITUTION of psychiatry can be as cold and vicious as in the days of lobotomy and insulin shock.
Now he is elderly, but still he muses about being locked up, drugged up, about how, with schizophrenia, the treatment can be worse than the disease ...
THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTMARES OF ABDUL HUSSAIN could not have been conceived without the friendly assistance of the Crisis charity for the homeless, and would not have been completed without the fine support of the Coombs Library, at the West London Mental Health Trust in Southall. This book, even if it is no best seller, is for all those suffering in that infernal zone where mental illness and homelessness intersect so very unfortunately.
Thus did Pamela greet a most unsettling stranger on a very chilly Christmas day. It was a dull, sullen later afternoon, Christmas dinner for the homeless was being hectically cooked, and winter darkness was approaching.
There they were, as two opposites- Pamela Cotteridge on the one hand, the rather reluctant Crisis worker for a week, looking as neat as a June sky, and Abdul Hussain, even more dishevelled than the messy clouds of this cold late December. He felt penetrated by loneliness and rejection. The savage reality was that his 'bed' had been the pavement near Victoria Station the previous three or four nights. He had no friends, no money, and no hope. Homelessness had not improved the way he smelt or looked. He was scurrying through London's dirt, feeding off the unwholesome detritus in bins, he was perpetually terrified, he was fragmenting into despair.
A lot of other homeless people had been gathering outside the Apollo Theatre in Victoria. He had gone to talk to them. One- an old man over sixty, with a huge white beard and a rather huge Kerry accent, whose name was Sean- had given him half of a chocolate bar, which Abdul had consumed rapidly, not unlike a starved, ravenous animal. The elderly Irishman told him they were waiting for the Crisis van, which would ferry them to one of the shelters, somewhere eastwards. Abdul had grunted back with wary unsure appreciation as Sean, in that perhaps overcute Kerry manner, said there would be heaps of food and advice there, at Crisis. Being on the streets made Abdul even more distrustful of everything and everyone than he usually was.
Abdul had the diagnosis of schizophrenia imprinted upon his heart. He was on the run from a mental hospital. He had absconded. He was unable to bear any more the nurses, the corridors, the electronic doors, the ghoulish paraphernalia of being locked up as a lunatic. To be homeless, for all its pain and perils, seemed to provide some sort of freedom from the way he felt hemmed in by the ‘Mental Health’ Services. He feared he would never be able to escape from that label of schizophrenia stuck upon his trembling consciousness, that label managing to dig down to his core. It thieved his soul away from him, and replaced it with-confinement, locks and psychiatric drugs.
Abdul was a fugitive, and he was worse than afraid; he was suicidal. He was at the level of some sub- beast prowling through London's shadows. Sean, who was used to homelessness and the homeless, was still shocked at how much of what is human had been taken away from this stranger. The manner in which Abdul had gobbled down that proffered chocolate, it was scary, the speed and terror of it, the way Abdul spoke, now too fast, now with vast slow stammering silences between words, the nervousness of his eyes that jerked around, Abdul's incessant suspiciousness- these all discomfited Sean. The truth was that Abdul himself felt...no better than a cornered rat. A rodent, yes, Abdul the rodent, dossing in the sewer.
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 29 July, 2009.