Book type: Novel
Published: 26 Nov 2020
Chess-playing people-traffickers, suicidal photographers, absurdist sound sculptors, cat-loving rebel sympathisers, murderous storytellers... The characters in Hassan Blasim’s debut novel are not the inventions of a wild imagination, but real-life refugees and people whose lives have been devastated by war. Interviewed by Hassan Owl, an aspiring Iraq-born writer, they become the subjects of an online art project, a blog that blurs the boundaries between fiction and autobiography, reportage and the novel.
Framed by an email correspondence with the mysterious Alia, a translator of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, the project leads us through the bars, brothels and bathhouses of Hassan’s past and present in a journey of trauma, violence, identity and desire. Taking its conceit from the Islamic tradition that says God has 99 names, the novel trains a kaleidoscopic lens on the multiplicity of experiences behind Europe’s so-called ‘migrant crisis’, and asks how those who have been displaced might find themselves again.
God 99 is the highly anticipated debut novel by award-winning Iraqi writer, poet and filmmaker Hassan Blasim. Translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.
Winner of an English PEN Translates Award.
One of The Guardian's Biggest books of autumn 2020.
As featured in Cosmopolitan's '69 new books by Black and POC authors'.
As featured on the Words Without Borders: November Watchlist 2020.
As featured in The New Arab's 'The best books by Arab authors in 2020'.
Read an interview with Hassan Blasim about God 99 in The Guardian, part of their feature on 'Europe's most exciting authors'.
Listen to Hassan Blasim discuss God 99 on BBC World Service's The Cultural Frontline.
'Blasim is perhaps the closest thing we have to an authentic Iraqi voice in contemporary fiction.' - The Guardian
'Blasim's blunt rhetoric, macabre humour and blurring of reality and imagination can feel overwhelming, but the refugee experience is traumatic: language is bewildering, memories are clouded and truth is often distorted to save lives. Blasim perfectly captures that sense of alienation.' - The Observer
'Sprawling and breathtaking, stuffed with cultural and literary references, this is a dazzling work of imagination and ur-reality.' - The Irish Times
'God 99 is a storehouse of revulsion and wonder.' - The Morning Star
‘Blasim’s deranged energy is what makes the stories such compulsive fun’ - Alexander Dziadosz on God 99 in the London Review of Books
'Blasim does not adhere to the narrative structures held dear in commercial and book club fiction. Instead, he deliberately sidesteps Western storytelling conventions to reveal the intolerable randomness of pain' - Lithub
'One of the most singular reading experiences I've had lately; Blasim has found a fascinating space in which to operate.' - Words Without Borders
'An immersive experience of grief and exaltation, anger and disgust...' - M. Lynx Qualey for Qantara.de
'God 99 is confirmation that Arabic literature in translation can be irreverant, blunt and starkly, fearlessly modern.' - Hadara Magazine
'In highlighting the refugee experience, in all of its bleakness and disconnection, God 99 excels.' - Lunate Fiction
'An inventive debut novel that expertly depicts the devastation of conflict and dislocation of exile.' - The National UAE
'Blasim's work boldly crosses generic spaces and creative terrains... God 99 celebrates the power of books' - Dublin Review of Books
'The patchwork sketches the dizzying extremes well, from harrowing loss and danger to everyday drudgery.' - NewsChain
Read an excerpt from God 99 at LitHub.
Read an excerpt from God 99 at The Markaz Review.
Read an interview with the author published by Swedish PEN.
Read an exclusive interview with translator Jonathan Wright at The Comma Press Blog.
Praise for Hassan Blasim:
‘Bitter, furious and unforgettable... Blasim’s stories struck me as so different from anything else I had read, not only from that part of the world but from anywhere else.’ – The Wall Street Journal
‘At his best, Blasim produces a corrosive mixture of broken lyricism, bitter irony and hyper-realism which topples into the fantastic and the quotidian in the same reading moment.’ – M. John Harrison
‘Blasim pitches everyday horror into something almost gothic... his taste for the surreal can be Gogol-like.’ – The Independent
‘Perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive...’ – The Guardian
'Certainly one of the most innovative to emerge on the literary scene in the last decade...' - RTE
'Blasim's vivid prose reflects the way the fantastic and the ordinary collapse into a Kafkaesque jumble during urban conflict.' - The Financial Times (£)