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Hadiyya Hussein, Author, Ikram Masmoudi, Translator
Hadiya Hussein, trans. from the Arabic by Ikram Masmoudi. Syracuse Univ., $19.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-8156-0995-7
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Iraqi author Hussein’s elegiac novel of home, exile, and life in Iraq during and after the Gulf War begins with a simple act of protest: Huda, a young woman employed in a men’s underwear workshop known as al-Amal (the Factory of Hope), votes against Saddam Hussein in a presidential election. Compelled to flee Iraq as a result of voicing her opinion, she crosses into Jordan in order to seek asylum. Though the novel begins by jarringly dancing through its own chronology, it soon resolves into a meditative melancholy as Huda settles in Amman and awaits her fate, one among a crowd of Iraqi refugees she describes as "eager to torture ourselves and whip our souls for reasons we don’t understand. Tragedy wears us like clothing." Journal entries from Nadia, Huda’s friend from the factory; and Moosa, a participant in the Iraqi uprising; prove compelling divergences from Huda’s story and offer further brutal but necessary perspectives on life under Saddam Hussein’s despotic regime. Though the pacing occasionally stagnates—Huda, rather than taking action, spends large portions of her time in the seemingly never-ending ritual of remembrance—the novel still offers valuable insight into the plight and mindset of the poor and oppressed yearning to be free. (Aug.)
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