Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq

Jo Tatchell, Author . Doubleday $23.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-385-52121-5

In this biography of the Iraqi poet Nabeel Yasin, freelance writer Tatchell offers a portrait of a courageous family, a devastating political regime and a writer's escape and exile. Before the Ba'athist "crackdown on writers, poets, and artists," Yasin had been "one of [Baghdad's] most celebrated poets"; in March 1976, however, he was officially declared an "Enemy of the State." Tatchell divides the book in two sections, tracing Yasin's life in Iraq from the 1950s to 1980 in the first and his exile in the second. Even as the Ba'athist regime impinges, through multiple arrests and torture, upon the Yasins, the first section is particularly rich in its evocation of family life and tradition. The stress and anxiety of exile occupy the second as Yasin with his wife and children seek a place to settle (Prague, Damascus, Budapest, Leipzig, among them) before landing in England in 1992. Straddling the imagined and the historical, Tatchell's novelized biography takes the reader inside the thoughts and reproduces the dialogue of a wide cast of characters. While this approach is usually enlightening and compelling, here it makes it difficult to distinguish the speculative from the factual. Given Yasin's status as a poet, the biography reveals little more about his poetry than names of his most famous works: "Brother Yasin" and "Brother Yasin Again." (June)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 06/01/2007
Paperback - 369 pages - 978-0-340-89704-1
Open Ebook - 226 pages - 978-0-385-52313-4
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!