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April 5, 2010 3:30 am
The Madman of Freedom Square
By Hassan Blasim
Translated by Jonathan Wright
Comma Press £7.99, 98 pages
FT Bookshop price: £6.39
Long-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize, The Madman of Freedom Square is an unusual collection of stories examining the impact of the Iraq wars as seen through the eyes of fictional Iraqis.
Drawing on his own experiences as a refugee in the first Gulf war, Blasim gives the reader a rare glance at Iraq from the inside. It is hard not to recoil from the macabre and brutal tales: from a man locked in a suspected arms factory with his secret lover, who resorts to eating her fingers for survival, to the man haunted by dreams of being blown up by suicide bombers while shopping at his local market.
Unflinchingly graphic descriptions of violence and explicit sexual references make this an unsettling read. Ultimately, though, the book reveals little about the Iraqi mentality that the reader could not have guessed.
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