Hassan Blasim

WINNER of the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
The Iraqi Christ.

Hassan Blasim
is an Iraqi writer currently based in Finland. 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, after several arrests, he was advised by his tutors to leave Baghdad - the overtly political and critical nature of his films was drawing attention from Saddam's informants at the Academy. He fled - initially to Sulaymaniya (Iraqi Kurdistan), where he made feature-length drama Wounded Camera, under the Kurdish pseudonym 'Ouazad Osman' - and ultimately in 2004, after years of travelling illegally through Europe as a refugee, he settled in Finland.

Hassan's stories first appeared on the website iraqstory.com, which he co-edited, and then first in print, with the anthology Madinah (commissioned by Comma Press in 2008). His debut collection The Madman of Freedom Square was published by Comma a year later, 2009 (translated by Jonathan Wright) and was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ (again translated by Jonathan Wright) was published by Comma in April 2013, and won the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - the first Arabic title and the first short story collection ever to win the award.

Hassan's work has been translated (or is in the process of being translated) into over 20 languages. A heavily censored Arabic edition of Madman was finally published in 2012 and was immediately banned in Jordan, and an Arabic edition of The Iraqi Christ was published in 2015. A selection of stories from both of his two collections were published in the US in 2014, by Penguin USA, under the title 'The Corpse Exhibition', which was later picked as one of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2014.

March 2016 saw the launch of Blasim's first play, The Digital Hats Game, at the Telakka Theatre in Helsinki.
'Perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive...' 
The Guardian, 2010

Praise for Hassan:

US Press for Penguin edition (The Corpse Exhibition):

'His stories struck me as so different from anything else I had read, not only from that part of the world but from anywhere else.' - Feature in the Wall Street Journal

'Brilliant and disturbing... bitter, furious and unforgettable.' - Wall Street Journal

'The existence of this book is reason for hope, proof of the power of storytelling.' - The Boston Globe

‘If a short story could break the heart of a rock, this might just be the one....’ - The New York Times

‘Brutal, vulgar, imaginative, and unerringly captivating...A searing, original portrait of Iraq.’ - Publishers Weekly

‘Powerful, moving and deeply descriptive.’ - Kirkus Reviews

'Blunt and gruesome.' - The Huffington Post

'I will be surprised if another work of fiction this Important, with a capital I, gets published all year.' - Fiction Advocate

'Readers can be grateful to have some distance from these characters and their lives — without that, these stories would be the stuff of nightmares.' - Kansas City Star

'Very important... rare... Blasim is up to the task' - Flavorwire: 10 Must-Read Books for February

‘A Nightmare of Violence and Terror’ - Interview in Guernica Magazine

‘The Moral Confusion of Post-War America’ - Helen Benedict Essay in Guernica Magazine

‘In Defence of Open Wounds’ response to Benedict Essay, Michael Carson in Wrath Bearing Tree

UK Press:

'Bolano-esque in its visceral exuberance, and also Borgesian in its gnomic complexity... a master of metaphor.' - The Guardian

‘We need to express the disaster of our lives’ - The New Statesman

'Blasim moves adeptly between surreal, internalised states of mind and ironic commentary on Islamic extremism and the American invasion... excellent. – The Metro

'Blasim pitches everyday horror into something almost gothic... his taste for the surreal can be Gogol-like.' - The Independent

'Blasim's vivid prose reflects the way the fantastic and the ordinary collapse into a Kafkaesque jumble during urban conflict.' - The Financial Times

'Blasim's tone is a resilient blend of mordancy and broken lyricism.' - Intelligent Life

'Blasim has been called, ''the best writer of Arabic fiction alive''. It is not his identity, however, but the quality of his writing that makes his voice striking. It is deeply troubling and complex, the metaphors arresting and violent.' - The Spectator

'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

'His work never flinches from gore, sex, violence, blasphemy or misery, nor do these tropes ever feel exploitative. The rich combination of pitch-black gallows humour and fantastical flights from reality are utterly compelling and more real than anything you have read before about Iraq.' - The Skinny

'He writes in a terse, unsettling but nevertheless lyrical style. There is the same queer mixture of clarity and disalignment you feel while reading Kafka's short stories. It is the terrible clarity that comes with fear, where every particle of the street seems fresh and crisp, and it seems like these are your last impressions of the world.' - 3:AM

'Blasim's occupied people have their voices restored to them.' - The Literateur

'Well-written, highly inventive, and difficult, Blasim reminded me what truly great writing can be.' - Dead Ink Books

Check out Hassan Blasim's website at hassanblasim.com.

Read 'The Green Zone Rabbit' from the collection on Words Without Borders.

Read Hassan's story 'Don't Kill Me, I Beg You. This is My Tree' specially-commissioned for the Guardian's 'Water Stories' series here.

Read a review of the Edinburgh launch at the Reel Iraq Festival in The Edinburgh Reporter.

Hassan's story 'The Reality and the Record' features in the Comma anthology, Madinah. Head to Comma's text and audio platform, MacGuffin, to read 'The Reality and the Record'.

Hassan was selected for the Barnes and Noble US-wide ‘Discover Great Writers’ programme, 2014.


'People die in the street because of some roadside bomb and yet all everyone talks about is this beautiful, sentimental, poetic Arab language that I'm supposedly destroying. But who is writing about what it's really like, about this nightmarish, unreal violence people are experiencing?' - Hassan Blasim talks to Ben East at The National

'Certainly, Blasim can write a story. But he may also have a flock of sparrows inside him, each struggling in its own direction, needing to tell its individual tale, to peck its way out into the light.' - Egypt Independent

'We need to express the disaster of our lives.' - Hassan Blasim in an interview with New Statesman

'Every year I want to come to Britain, but it's so difficult because I am Iraqi and I need a visa. But now I have an invitation, I have my book. A British soldier, on the other hand, can go to Iraq without a visa, without an invitation and then kill people and leave. So what I say is, let us do our own democracy. ' - Hassan Blasim in New Internationalist

'I believe that the role of the writer today, whether in times of war or peace, is to not let what is going on all around us become a cheap and easy target for the media, for politicians or for our own forgetfulness. I think the fragment of 'imagination' for example, contributes somehow to our understanding of the past.' - Hassan Blasim interviewed in PEN Atlas

'I'm not interested in preserving ''the beauty of the Arabic language''.' - Hassan Blasim quoted in Arabic Literature Blog

'I look at what has happened in Iraq and feel that I must tell this story. Because around the world, the media creates a different picture about violence in Iraq. At the same time, I don't want to just explain the violence. I'm an artist. I enjoy playing with stories, telling one story inside another story. I want to tell the stories of what happened in Iraq in a different way. Sometimes people say my writing is shocking, it's too much maybe but that's what happened.' - Hassan talks to Vicki Heath at Thresholds Short Story Forum

BOOKTRUST interview at the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize awards ceremony. Watch here

ARAB LIT review of Newcastle reading by Sarah Irving. Read here

TANJARA review of London reading by Suzannah Tarbush. Read here

Publications by Hassan Blasim

God 99

Highly anticipated debut novel by acclaimed Iraqi writer, poet and filmmaker Hassan Blasim, described by the Guardian as ‘perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive’.

The Iraqi Christ

From legends of the desert to horrors of the forest, Blasim’s stories blend the fantastic with the everyday, the surreal with the all-too-real.

The Madman of Freedom Square

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...

Anthologies featuring Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100

Iraq + 100 poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a century after the disastrous American- and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival?

The American Way

Covering US foreign policy from 1945 to the present day, an anthology of specially commissioned stories by authors from across the globe addressing America's history of intervention.

Madinah: City Stories from the Middle East

For all we think we know of the conflict and exoticism of the region, nothing opens more doors to what we don’t than its writing. Here, ten short stories by new and established writers have been selected and translated in English for the first time, to open just such a door…

Collections edited by Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100

Iraq + 100 poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a century after the disastrous American- and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival?