The Iraqi Christ
Book type: Short Story Collection
Published: 01 Apr 2013
WINNER of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2014. Read more here.
A soldier with the ability to predict the future finds himself blackmailed by an insurgent into the ultimate act of terror…
Fleeing a robbery, a Baghdad shopkeeper falls into a deep hole, at the bottom of which sits a djinni and the corpse of a soldier from a completely different war…
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. Taking his cues from Kafka, his prose shines a dazzling light into the dark absurdities of Iraq’s recent past and the torments of its countless refugees. The subject of this, his second collection, is primarily trauma and the curious strategies human beings adopt to process it (including, of course, fiction). The result is a masterclass in metaphor – a new kind of story-telling, forged in the crucible of war, and just as shocking.
THE IFFP 2014:
'With minds, families, communities all shattered into ragged fragments by invasion, by lawless carnage and by the dictatorship that preceded them (which Blasim never forgets), these piecemeal tales both evoke a landscape of disintegration and try to rebuild meaning out of it.'
Read IFFP judge Boyd Tonkin's write up of The Iraqi Christ here.
Watch an interview with Hassan minutes after being announced the winner here
Hear Hassan on Thursday 22nd May's BBC Front Row (scroll to 16:10).
Read the Guardian coverage of Hassan's win.
'It is the first time in the prize’s 24-year history that it has gone to an Arab writer and also the first time that a short story collection has been victorious.'
Coverage from The Bookseller.
Write up from The Irish Times. Read more here.
'In Arabic, the fearlessness of Blasim's stories has broken new ground, leading some to ignore his playfulness and sharp scene-setting.'
Coverage from Al Jazeera. Read more here.
Listen to Hassan on BBC Outlook, being interviewed about his experience as a refugee, here.
'Blasim's tone is a resilient blend of mordancy and broken lyricism.' - Intelligent Life
'It is not his identity but the quality of his writing that makes his voice striking. It is deeply troubling and complex, the metaphors arresting and violent.' - The Spectator
'Required reading for a real taste of life in Iraq.' - The National
'An arrestingly vivid picture of the privation and the terrors of life in Iraq.' - Herald Scotland
Foyles Staff Pick, Summer 2014
“A visceral collection with echoes of Gogol, Kafka and Greene, populated by the war-scarred, the exiled and the marginalised. Translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright and published by manchester’s Comma Press (who are absolutely incredible), Blasim’s stories explore the soul weathered, often deranged, by waves of violence. The emotional intensity of stories such as ‘The Iraqi Christ’ and ‘Dear Beto’ is staggering. A true master of the short story and one of the most important books of 2014.”
- Gary Perry, Assistant Head of Fiction, Foyles.
Named as one of the '10 Best Short Story Collections of the Decade' by Lithub (2019)
'He brings a sardonic sensibility to his stories, parodying the language of bureaucracy and always pointing to violence common to both order and chaos. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand both the war and the ongoing attempts to process the conflict through literature...'
'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
‘If a short story could break the heart of a rock, this might just be the one....’ - The New York Times
'The existence of this book is reason for hope, proof of the power of storytelling.' - The Boston Globe
‘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
Interview in Guernica Magazine.
Essay inspired by Hassan's appearance in New York - Helen Benedict in Guernica Magazine.
Essay written in response to Helen Benedict's piece - Michael Carson.
Praise for Hassan:
'Perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive...' – The Guardian.
'Bolaño-esque in its visceral exuberance, and also Borgesian in its gnomic complexity... a master of metaphor.' – The Guardian.
'At first, you receive Blasim 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 and hyper-realism which topples into the fantastic and the quotidian in the same reading moment.' –M John Harrison
‘Blasim deserves a wider audience, one ready to be shocked and awed by these pitch-black fairytales.’ - The National
'Blasim, now a refugee in Finland, is certainly one of the most innovative to emerge on the literary scene in the last decade...' - RTE
Read about the translator, Jonathan Wright, here.