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The Madman of Freedom Square Paperback – April 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd. (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905583257
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905583256
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hassan Blasim is a writer, a poet, and an award-winning filmmaker. He has written for www.iraqstory.com and his first short story in English was published in Madinah: City Stories from the Middle East. Jonathan Wright has been an Arabic translator for more than 30 years and has worked as a journalist for Reuters international new agency. His first major literary translation was Taxi by Khaled el-Khamissi.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The back cover of this spare and harsh collection calls it "both phantasmagoric and real" and that's exactly right - as surrealistic as Hassan Blasim's stories might be, the reader can be only too aware of the essential truth in each of his story's premises.

Stories like the "Truck to Berlin," "Reality and the Record" and "The Corpse Exhibition" are the 'highlights,' and are disturbing and unsettling. These stories aren't exactly "about" the 2003 invasion, American occupation, or pre-war sanctions; instead, they but put a personal, close focus on the problems (an understatement of a word if there ever was one) faced by the refugees and citizens of the country's that our policies have affected for much more than just the past decade.

It's easy to take a political spin on stories like these, but they really aren't written like that - these are 'people' stories, and while often horrible, the story's narrators usually remain the focus, and so more accessible to a reader interested in lives, rather than events.

And like the best fiction, because we don't view it as "real," I think we can connect with the story a bit better than a memoir might have. Blasim is telling readers the up-close stories of these wars, whether it's called 'fiction' or not. The unsettling part is knowing that events in these stories might as well have happened for real, even if not word-for-word.

It's a shame that this collection - which I'm not saying is perfect - is not even published by a US publisher. The American readers who should be exposed to a voice like Blasim (via translation by Jonathan Wright) have the least access (and interest). Just a shame, though no surprise. Despite nearly 25 years of US-Iraqi conflict - and a trillion dollars we spent - we have no idea of what those people went through, and what we continue to leave behind. But....that's my own political screed, which Blasim thankfully avoided. He didn't need it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ghazali on August 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
I've read many of Blasim's stories in Arabic and they are simply among the best in modern Iraqi and Arabic literature. Blasim's work is a true reflection of the chaos and madness suffered by Iraqi intellectuals from the seventies up to this day touching on themes of sadism, absurdity and nihilism. Blasim explores the variations of violence and ruthless destruction of man which sometimes amounts to levels of surrealism rarely explored in literature. It's worth mentioning that most of Blasim's work is heavily censored in Iraq and the Arab world and probably not published at all!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BronxRev on August 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
I was looking for a book that was written about occupation Iraq and I found this one. It is an amazing gem of stories and I would recommend it to anyone--even if they are not interested in the Middle East. Most of the stories were merely good; yet all of them managed to paint a haunting landscape that lingers even after the book is closed. This ability to paint the absurd and violent was masterful and revealing of the psychology of any peoples who have been through such trauma. Read this book if you get the chance.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think that to begin to understand a historical moment, history books and news reports are never quite enough. In lieu of experiencing it, one needs to read literature whose creation was directly motivated by that moment. One of the most powerful contemporary voices of Iraq I have read is Hassan Blasim, whose simple but devastating prose in The Madman of Freedom Square offers a harrowing introduction to the darkest aspects of the country’s present and recent past. The book, a collection of short stories dealing with the period from the Iran-Iraq War up to through the United States’ occupation and subsequent internecine conflict, evokes an apocalyptic Iraq, a country which the U.S. invasion, a history of tyranny, and factional competition for resources and political power have turned into a waking nightmare for many of its inhabitants, especially its most vulnerable. Of course, this is far from the only face of modern Iraq, but it is the side which Blasim urgently wishes to convey. Taken as a whole, Madman is a deeply unsettling piece of literature, even for the cynical and world-weary. The gory scenes which Blasim matter-of-factly depicts are surprising because of how commonplace they seem to him. His protagonists are resigned to living in infernal conditions; ideas like human dignity and self-determination have become cruel jokes for them.

In the first story of the book, “The Reality and the Record,” a medical worker in Baghdad is kidnapped while cleaning up the scene of six decapitations. He is forced to film a video with the six heads, declaring himself to be an Iraqi soldier who has massacred innocent civilians. He sees himself on international news later.
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