The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim

Like all great works of art, Hassan Blasim’s 2010 collection of short stories reverentially titled ‘the iraqi christ’ furthers the seach for the true purpose of art. Like Truman Capote before him Blasim redresses the line between journalism and fiction, truth and falsity, information and disinformation. On a subject so often overcome by sterilised newspaper headlines or sensationalised depictions of Eastern narrative blurred by a western pen ‘The Iraqi Christ’ is truly an act of revolution. Sylisitcallyu and contextually Blasimis truly standing alone in no man’s land. Consistently he denies traditional formal definitions as he creates an immersive cultural experience for a region so often overshadowed by the crimes of war.

These 14 short lyrical stories echo with death about the pages, yet these are not just stories of war but conceal a wider, more abstract and stranger truth behind the perverse figures and esoteric metaphor that highlight the poison both visible and invisible which has infected the heart of Iraqi culture.Whether it is through a cannibalistic djinn living underground or a suicide bomber bargaining for his life in a restaurant, Blasim never fails to both shock and enlighten.

in a tight but sparse prose style he both revives and  deconstructs the traditions of Arabic writing as it struggles to conform to the cultural, religious and political conflict eponymous with the region. It is possibly to say that he has done for the east what Joyce did for the west, but facing odds more impossible than joyce could ever have imagined. Blasim breaks down grammar, style, character and morality until they boil into a pot of his own dark philosophy.

Like Blasim’s previous work ‘The Iraqi Christ’ is yet to be published in either its language or country of origin, yet with the accolades awarded it, such as the independent foreign fiction prize 2014 and plans to release the a free e-book in the original language, Blasim is undoubtedly one to watch for the future and a possible agent for positive change both within the canon of literature and the wider social sphere. The ‘Iraqi Christ is then not only one of the best books you’ll read all year, it is also one of the most important.

Lawrence Hodgkinson – St. Pancras bookseller

 

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