The Madman of Freedom Square

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.

Translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.


Longlisted for the 2010 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

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

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

Praise for Hassan Blasim:

'Perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive...' – The Guardian (June 2010)

'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.' - The Wall Street Journal (feature)

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

‘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

‘Blasim deserves a wider audience, one ready to be shocked and awed by these pitch-black fairytales.’ - The National

‘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

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The Virgin and the Soldier
Ali's Bag
The Truck to Berlin

Book Details

1 Dec 2009

About the Author

Hassan Blasim

WINNER of the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
Read more

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