Hassan Blasim: ‘A Refugee in the Paradise that is Europe’

A short text by Iraqi short-story writer and filmmaker Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright:

Blasim reading. Image from his website.
Blasim reading. Image from his website.

You escape death.
They hit you on the border.
They insult you in the racist newspapers.
They analyse your child’s dead body on television.
They get together and discuss your past and your future.
In their pictures they draw you drowning.
They put you in their museums and applaud.
They decide to stop hitting you and set up a military unit to confront you.
Academics get new grant money to research your body and your soul.
Politicians drink red wine after an emergency meeting to discuss your fate.
They study history in search of an answer for your daughter, who’s freezing in the forest cold.
They weep crocodile tears over your pain.
They come out in demonstrations against you and build walls.
Green activists put up pictures of you in the street.
Others sit on their sofas, comment wearily on your picture on Facebook, and go to sleep.
They strip away your humanity in debates that are clever and sharp as knives.
They write you down today and, with the eraser of selfishness, make you disappear the next morning.
They expect to come across their own humanity through your tragedy.
They take you into their paradise, then flog you night and day with their horror at your eyes, which radiate fear and hope.
The past goes to sleep, and wakes up inside you.
The present engulfs you.
You produce children and grow old.
You die.

Translated By Jonathan Wright


  1. I find it scary that on whatever “side” one finds himself/herself, it is always “us” (“you”, “I”) versus “they”. And “they” can never be right.

  2. When will Arab writers get off their high horses and walk among the people? Talk like them and share their wisdom? Weeping “crocodile tears”? And who applauds in museums? Balasim is a serious writer and intellectual, and he could have produced a better work on a current human tragedy! One more thing: My family and I, and many friends I know found refuge in Europe, The U.S., and other parts of the world. Now we and our children are citizens, legal, or illeagal residents of those countries, and we flourish and suffer like those around us. Perhaps the time will come when our side of the story is told.

  3. Europeans don’t like you people. What part do you not understand? Don’t come here don’t make Arab children here. Don’t come to Canada or Australia…Go home and fight for your own democracy. If you want to be European: go home pretend to be white men on your own money and in a place that belongs to you!

    1. I will leave your risible comment in place in the hopes that it is some form of parody.

Comments are closed.