The full review appears at In These Times:
What might Iraq look like a century from now? That question is the organizing premise of Iraq + 100, a new short-story collection edited by award-winning Iraqi writer and filmmaker Hassan Blasim. As Blasim notes in his introduction, futuristic fiction isn’t a standard form for Iraqi prose—typically, it tends toward grim contemporary realism, historical fiction or what translates as “political fantasy”: political fiction with elements of magical realism. Even Ahmed Saadawi’s boundary-breaking Frankenstein in Baghdad, forthcoming in English next year, is firmly grounded in the present.
As such, Iraq + 100 won’t tell American readers much about the broader trends in Iraqi literature. But it might well stretch the imaginations of those accustomed to seeing Iraq as a place of endless violence. An avowed literary outlier, Blasim has long been interested in new possibilities of form and literary cross-pollination. In 2013, he and Comma Press began commissioning stories for Iraq + 100, set 100 years after George W. Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished.” Though futuristic, the resulting works can’t all be called science fiction; some are noir, romance or satire.
Each version of the year 2103 has a different flavor. In Ibrahim al-Marashi’s “Najufa,” terrorism has moved to America, where we find the humorously named “CAKA, the Christian Assembly of Kansas and Arkansas.” “Kahramana,” by the pseudonymous Anoud, is the only story that imagines a future U.S./NATO presence in Iraq. Here, the titular Kahramana escapes from the Islamic Empire just before her marriage to its leader, a man whom the state newspaper refers to as “the great, the brave lion, the sword of Allah, Amir Mullah Hashish.” The Westerners make a big show of the beautiful Kahramana, putting her on a billboard and giving her a “Courageous Women’s Award.” But in the end, the fickle media forget her and her bid for asylum in the U.S. is quietly rejected.
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