Review of Hassan Blasim’s /Madman of Freedom Square/

Hassan Blasim’s debut short story collection, The Madman of Freedom Square, directs the reader’s gaze toward the violence of recent Iraqi experience: neighbors turning in neighbors, street cleaners collecting body parts, refugees in flight. But it also points toward itself, and the more violent and troubling aspects of its storytelling.

The book, which made The Independent’s longlist for best foreign fiction, has yet to appear in Arabic. The stories were solicited by Comma Press, written in Arabic, and translated straightaway by Jonathan Wright. It is thus perhaps not surprising that Blasim’s characters have fraught relationships with the stories they’re telling—and the audience for whom they’re telling them.

Read the rest of my review at The Quarterly Conversation.

Also, you can listen to a few stories from this collection online.


  1. Hi Lynx, I see you questioned my translation: “Their silence added to the mystery of them.” I think that’s correct. The alternatives I see are “Their silence added to their mysteriousnessness” (too unwieldy) and “Their silence made them (seem) more mysterious” (rather bland). At first reading “their mystery” could be ambiguous — the mystery about them, or the mystery they felt. Also, I prefer the rhythm of “Their silence added to the mystery of them.” But mainly I wanted to say that at the time I did consider your proposal and rejected it on what I thought were good grounds!

  2. Jonathan,

    I understand I’m Monday morning quarterbacking here, to use an American metaphor I don’t totally understand. (We must have football games on Sundays, right?)

    So, although I do have the Arabic text of /Madman/ somewhere on my laptop, and we could continue to toss out versions all day, I clearly like the text quite well as it stands. And thanks for explaining….

  3. Oops. Make that “mysteriousness” rather than “mysteriousnessness”.

  4. Ah, but mysteriousnessness would be a much more mysterious word….

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