Populated by a cast of imagined con artists, holy fools, drag queens, and partisans – as well as some very factual politicians, priests, and generals – this novel started life as a pseudonymous blog written ‘live’ by ‘Shalash’ during and after the Second Iraq War. Never written to be published, all but lost save for disintegrating printouts treasured by its devotees, Shalash the Iraqi is here presented in its first authorised translation, with the blessing and commentary of ‘Shalash’ himself.
The second U.S. invasion of Iraq began in the spring of 2003. By the autumn of 2005, though the Saddam Hussein regime had reached its bloody end, ordinary Iraqis were seeing little improvement in their daily lives. In the midst of this turmoil, a hero arose – or, rather, a jester. In a country where electricity was only intermittently available, a series of blog posts began to appear at a soon-to-be-defunct website and took Baghdad by storm. Individual entries were printed out and passed around for months, until the pages were nearly shredded. Where neither computers nor printers were available, the posts were retold aloud, then passed along at second- and third-hand. What could inspire such devotion? Signed ‘Shalash the Iraqi’, the posts proved to be nothing less than portions of a madcap serial novel thumbing its nose at Iraq’s new normal.