BAGHDAD -- Iraq closed a painful decade just as it began: with explosions reverberating around the capital.
Beginning in the early morning Tuesday with the assassination of a Ministry of Finance official by a bomb attached to his vehicle and continuing for hours, the attacks were a devastating reminder of the violence that regularly afflicts Iraq. And they somehow seemed more poignant coming on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the American-led invasion, which is being marked in the West by new books, academic studies and polls retesting public attitudes a decade later.
By midmorning, the familiar sight of black smoke rose above a cityscape of palm fronds, turquoise-tiled mosque domes and squat concrete buildings. By midafternoon, the numbers stacked up: 52 dead and nearly 180 wounded in separate attacks that included 16 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and 1 assassination with a silenced gun.
Most attacks hit Shiite neighborhoods, and their targets were varied: restaurants, a bank, a vegetable market and a parking garage. Others were near a courthouse and a university, and some seemed to have no other target than innocent passers-by. Many Iraqis say they are worried about an increase in sectarian tensions, and, while there were no immediate claims of responsibility, the attacks were carried out in the fashion of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgent group left weakened but not vanquished by the American military.
Harder to measure was the number of lives interrupted.
A couple of hours after a car bomb struck outside his apartment building in the Shiite neighborhood called New Baghdad, Shwan Jameel rummaged through the clothes and blankets, sprinkled with shards of glass, that were scattered around his spare bedroom until he found a blue nylon bag filled with memories.
Inside were business cards of former bosses, badges he used to go into the Green Zone when he worked as a security guard for the American occupiers, and letters in support of a visa application to emigrate to the United States that he said had never been answered.
"It is with great pleasure that I am able detail his accomplishments and record his service," one American official wrote in a letter from 2004 in which he described how Mr. Jameel had saved American lives after an ambush in Mosul during the height of the war.
"Many of us are here thanks, in no small part, to Shwan and his bravery," the official wrote.
Mr. Jameel's family was unharmed by the morning's blast, and he was able to conjure his sense of humor. Holding up an old badge showing a more chiseled version of himself, he said, "This is me, Tom Cruise.
"I'm just smiling because it's too crazy. Life is funny here."
But several people were killed or injured in that attack, including children in a minibus on their way to school. The kebab restaurant downstairs was severely damaged, and workers -- not pausing to grieve -- were already repairing windows and doors.
In the apartment next to Mr. Jameel's, now a mess of broken glass, scattered belongings and twisted window frames, a woman in a black abaya wailed, "Too much hurt, too much pain. Where should we go?"
No one was hurt there, but the six children were terrified. "Poverty, hunger, pain," said their mother, Layla Alwain, ticking off the features of her life. "We've got nothing, and it's getting worse and worse. Our country is not developing like others."
She added: "This explosion didn't happen at the president's house. It happened in front of the poor people's house."
Her husband, Abbas Rydah, a 75-year-old day laborer, rushed back after the explosion from his job in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. He echoed the connection that many Iraqis make between the bickering among the country's political factions and violence in the streets. And he suggested that forbearance could help end the deep-seated grievances and grudges at the root of the violence.
"We just need to forgive our brothers," he said.
Then he broke down crying.
"This is the situation we live in?" he said. "It just hurts."
Iraq's agonies unfurl at an unpredictable but relentless pace. Weeks of calm pass and a sense of normalcy returns, and then with certainty the cadence of everyday life, governed by traffic jams and electricity blackouts, is violently interrupted.
"Yes, I am trying to get there," screamed a man into his cellphone, near a row of blast walls near this city's Tahrir Square. "I know about the bombings. I'm O.K., but the roads are blocked. What can I do?"
But with violence so familiar, attacks can seem to barely disturb the broader contours of daily life for those not directly affected.
In the traffic snarl outside the checkpoint entrance to New Baghdad, campaign posters for coming elections hang like taunts of the democracy that cannot seem to take hold here. A man approached car windows selling red-and-yellow squeaky alligator toys, just as a minivan passed from the direction of the bombing, a wooden coffin wrapped in a blue blanket fastened to its roof.
In Shula, another Shiite neighborhood, a white truck arrived in the early morning at a vegetable market, with a load of pea pods hiding explosives.
The result was a tangle of charred steel rods, rotting peas covered in a thick swarm of flies, and angry Shiite men determined that Iraq not slide back into widespread sectarian violence.
"I don't think it will get as bad as before," said Ali Minghash, 30, who works at the vegetable market. "In each house now you have pain, and we don't want more pain."
Duraid Adnan contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.