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“Dagr, a former university professor, and Kinza, a small-time thug, are thrown together in the chaos of the Iraq War. As the US Marines bumble around destroying their country, the two friends do everything in their power to stay alive, an increasingly impossible task as Baghdad collapses around them. Helped by a corrupt US Marine, Private Hoffman, they begin their escape, when unexpectedly things get even more crazily complicated…”
Saad Z. Hossain’s debut novel ‘Escape from Baghdad‘ is a black comedy and an absurdist view on the Iraq War. It follows the journey of two friends, Dagr and Kinza who have literally nothing to lose as they lost everything they had because of the war. They try to escape Baghdad with their captive, Hamid, a former torturer, to reach Mosul but a series of unexpected events changes their course which brings out the insanity of the war.
The plot gets interesting when Dagr, Kinza and Hamid are asked to find the ‘Lion of Akkad’, a murderer who haunts streets at night, striking in sudden darkness. They don’t catch the Lion but they get hold of a watch which is odd in its functioning. On the other hand, there’s a US Marine, Private Hoffman who tries to help Dagr and Kinza reach Mosul and gets muddled up in their business.
The watch changes the course of Dagr, Kinza and Hamid’s life as there are powerful people who are after it. They learn the value and the secret the watch contains much later as they are constantly on the run from Hassan Salemi, a man whose son was killed by Kinza. Hassan Salemi will not spare an innocent life as long as he finds his son’s murderer.
The story is filled with numerous characters, twists and turns which include fantasy, history and a bit of mythology as well. Saad Z. Hossain blends the Iraq War perfectly well with different Iraqi elements in the book including the kibbeh. He creates visual imagery of the hell-like war and throughout the book you cannot help but laugh at its insanity.
Hossain writes not just about the war but brings out the essentials of the Golden Age of Islam by mentioning the works of Geber and the presence of Mother Davala.
This is a rare book, it is not about the war but it is about laughing at the hell created in Iraq by it. Dagr and Kinza have lost everything they had and yet find an absurd purpose in killing. Surely this is a must read for those who think that the war had a purpose and that every death was worth it.
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