Iraq + 100 edited by Hassan Blasim

My very first completed book for my Read the World project! I had already preordered Iraq + 100 prior to coming up with the idea for this project so it was a happy coincidence that the book arrived on my doorstep a few days beforehand! I liked the idea of beginning with a short story collection for a country that I had never read fiction from before- particularly short stories by different writers- because it felt like more of a broad scope of writing than one novel to begin with.

One of the things I noticed about the stories as I read them, which was reflected in Hassan Blasim’s introduction- is how different they were as speculative fiction to what I’m used to. For many of the stories I got the distinct impression that that speculation revolved around how the present would directly impact the future- with flashbacks and hallucinogenic techno bugs and godly reincarnation how might the future people cope with what went on in 2003? In the introduction Hassan Blasim notes that western science fiction has been able to track actual scientific progress in a short amount of time which, given the destruction of vital libraries and museums, plus brutal invasions, has been largely denied to Iraqi writers.

The stories still scan a whole spectrum of speculative writing though- speculative because they all pose the question of what Iraq will be like a hundred years after the invasion of 2003. There’s magical realism, decimated wastelands, a future where the question of ‘religious terrorism’ has shifted from the Middle East to right wing America, holographic pilgrimages and big brother-esque dictator adorned with jewels made of the cremated bodies of people who dare to speak another language. Some of the stories are hopeful, others bleak but they all tie in elements of language, culture, religion and imagination. My personal favourite stories were The Worker, Operation Daniel and Najufa.

It’ll be an uncomfortable read for anyone who isn’t used to being confronted by the consequences of America and Britain’s actions (and, given our media, that’s almost all of us). But for me it’s been a great break from the usual negative stories we see in our media about Iraq- a chance to see things from a very different perspective from mine.

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