cover image The Last Pomegranate Tree

The Last Pomegranate Tree

Bachtyar Ali, trans. from the Kurdish by Kareem Abdulrahman. Archipelago, $24 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-953861-40-5

In the kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing latest from Iraqi Kurdish writer Ali (I Stared at the Night of the City), a man’s quest to learn about his son reveals connections between myths and his family’s and culture’s histories. Peshmerga fighter Muzafar-I Subhdam was imprisoned in the early 1990s for taking up arms against the regime of Saddam Hussein. After he’s set free from the desert prison where he has been kept for 21 years, he goes in search of his son, Saryas, whom he’s never known. What he finds instead is the story of Muhammad the Glass-Hearted, whose life—equal parts political phantasm and a myth out of the Arabian Nights—is mysteriously entwined with Muzafar’s own. Through meetings with a giant of a man, revolutionaries, and the shadowy entity known as the Professor of Our Dark Nights (who may be Saryas, or an aspect of him, in disguise), Muzafar learns of the two sisters in white and the last pomegranate tree in the world, said to possess supernatural powers of healing. Retracing his son’s steps eventually leads Muzafar to the foot of his grave—but even this is only the beginning of another legend, as he discovers that Saryas was one of three boys who share a fate that will bring Muzafar into the war-torn heart of history. Ali’s novel is a visionary wonder that plunges into the dreamscape of a people’s fraught memory. For readers, this is unforgettable. (Jan.)