The Madman of Freedom Square Paperback – 3 Aug 2009
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'Perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive...' '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 pitches everyday horror into something almost gothic... his taste for the surreal can be Gogol-like.' --The Independent
'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
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.
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Blasim's subject is Iraq and its people in the years of Saddam Hussain and the subsequent American Occupation. The extraordinary events of those years render straightforward story-telling inadequate. Blasim's response has been to create a style that draws on the traditional resources of myth, legend and the dream narrative as much as modern reportage, and that fuses an almost Gothic sensibility with a commitment to truth.
The result is deeply unsettling for optimists and believers in the inherent nobility of man. Under horrendous pressures from external violence and culturally-imposed strictures, individuals in these stories crack time and again, regressing according to temperament and circumstance in the face of an almost surreal reality into states of infantile cruelty, superstitious dread and madness.
For the western reader, there will be echoes of Kafka and Borges, but also of Poe, and of De Sade's unflinching gaze on human depravity. In sum, these stories are a powerful and quite unanticipated artistic response to unbearable facts: a memorable and disquieting experience.
98 pages, not 256 pages as stated.
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