'Perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive...'
– The Guardian, 12 Jun 10.
From hostage-video makers in Baghdad, to human trafficking in the forests of Serbia, institutionalised paranoia in the Saddam years, to the nightmares of an exile trying to embrace a new life in Amsterdam... Blasim’s stories present an uncompromising view of the West's relationship with Iraq, spanning over twenty years and taking in everything from the Iran-Iraq War through to the Occupation, as well as offering a haunting critique of the post-war refugee experience.
Blending allegory with historical realism, and subverting readers’ expectations in an unflinching comedy of the macabre, these stories manage to be both phantasmagoric and shockingly real, light in touch yet steeped in personal nightmare. For all their despair and darkness, though, what lingers more than the haunting images of war, or the insanity of those who would benefit from it, is the spirit of defiance, the indefatigable courage of those few characters keeping faith with what remains of human intelligence.
Together these stories represent the first major literary work about the war from an Iraqi perspective.
**Long-Listed for the 2010 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize**
SINGLE STORIES NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE
The following are now available to read as single stories through Kindle:
Blasim moves adeptly between surreal, internalised states of mind and ironic commentary on Islamic extremism and the American invasion... excellent.
– The Metro, 22 Oct 09.
'Blasim pitches everyday horror into something almost gothic... his taste for the surreal can be Gogol-like.'
The Independent, 6 Oct 09.
'Crisp and shocking.... Too febrile and macabre to file under reportage, this cruel, funny and unsettling debut has hooks and twists that will lodge in any mind.'
– The Guardian
'The news machine has shifted its attention to Afghanistan, and Iraqis are being left to fend for themselves. Blasim's collection reminds us that anything could still happen there. Iraq's story must still be told, and we need Iraqi voices like Blasim's to tell it.'
– Intelligent Life, Nov 09.
'The Madman of Freedom Square is a brutally poetic book, it is rich and memorable, a necessary read for everyone interested in the world we live in.'
– Shortly Speaking.
'At first you receive it with the kind of shocked applause you’d award a fairly transgressive stand-up. You’re quite elated. Then you stop reading it at bedtime. At his best Blasim produces a corrosive mixture of broken lyricism, bitter irony & hyper-realism which topples into the fantastic & the quotidian in the same reading moment.'
– M John Harrison blog.
'A powerful collection.'
– Danny Yee's Book Reviews
About the Author
Hassan Blasim is a poet, filmmaker and short story writer. Born in Baghdad in 1973, he studied at the city's Academy of Cinematic Arts, where two of his films ‘Gardenia’ (screenplay & director) and ‘White Clay’ (screenplay) won the Academy's Festival Award for Best Work in their respective years. In 1998 he left Baghdad for Sulaymaniya (Iraqi Kurdistan), where he continued to make films, including the feature-length drama Wounded Camera, under the pseudonym Ouazad Osman, fearing for his family back in Baghdad under the Hussein dictatorship. In 2004, he moved to Finland, where he has since made numerous short films and documentaries for Finnish television. His stories have previously been published on www.iraqstory.com and his essays on cinema have featured in Cinema Booklets (Emirates Cultural Foundation). His first short story in English appeared in Madinah: City Stories from the Middle East (Comma 2008). This is his first book.
About the Translator
Jonathan Wright studied Arabic at Oxford University in the 1970s and has spent 18 of the past 30 years in the Arab world, mostly as a journalist with the international news agency Reuters. His first major literary translation was of Khaled el-Khamissi's best-selling book Taxi, published in English by Aflame Books in 2008.
** Selected as part of English PEN's Writers in Translation series.**
Cover image: The Ministry of Planning, Baghdad, 19-27 April 2003 copyright (c) Simon NorfolkThe foreign rights to Madman of Freedom Square have since been sold to publishers in Italy, Finland and Beirut, with more to follow.... Watch this space.