Last week, Freight Books read…

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan BlasimThe Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (Comma Press), translated by Jonathan Wright. On the day the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is due to be announced, I finally finished The Iraqi Christ, which is shortlisted (edit: and has now won it). This takes my total to three of the six shortlisted titles (and I am just starting on Strange Weather in Tokyo). I have no idea who will win, so instead I should probably talk about The Iraqi Christ instead.

This is a fine collection of short stories by a clearly talented author. Dark, twisted, often fantastical and self-referential, they carry a wonderfully wry strain of humour that matches the often macabre settings we are treated to. The experiences carried in the novel are not exclusive to war torn Iraq; we are also taken to Europe and the experience of Iraqi-as-refugee. I enjoyed these stories the most because the sense of alienation, isolation and disconnect was really tangible.

This book came with a weight of promise – I’d read some glowing reviews of it and it was on the IFFP shortlist, so it had a bit of a steep climb to own my subconsciousness. To a large degree it succeeded – I was drawn in, found myself wondering how a story would end, imagining what disgusting detail Blassim would come up with next. But I also quite often felt locked out from his prose… it was just too abstract in places for my taste, but I imagine that would be perfect fodder for some people, and it cannot be denied that he is an amazing writer.

Thanks to Comma Press for kindly sending my impoverished soul a review copy of this book.

 

EDIT: this review was first written when I had to catch a train to Aberdeen, so it was a shoddy piece of work. I edited it again one week later, and hopefully improved on it.

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