An Egyptian journalist in Iraq witnesses Saddam’s rise to power while investigating the disappearance of an Iraqi woman. What was it like to live in Iraq before the earth-shaking events of the end of the twentieth century? The mid seventies to the late eighties witnessed Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, the establishment of Kurdish autonomy in the north, and the Iraq-Iran war. It also brought an influx of oil wealth, following the 1973 war and the spike in oil prices, and a parallel influx of Arab talent, including many Egyptians, as the Egyptian left became disenchanted with Sadat. The massive migration also extended to workers and peasants, some of whom created an entire Egyptian village just outside Baghdad.We witness all of this and more through the eyes of an Egyptian woman married to an engineer working in Iraq. The narrator, who works for an Egyptian magazine’s bureau in the Iraqi capital, has a behind-the-scenes view of what was really happening at a critical juncture in the history of the region. Moreover, she has a mystery to solve: an Iraqi woman from the marshes in the south of Iraq, who is also a communist journalist, has disappeared, and as the mystery unfolds we learn of her love for an older Egyptian Marxist journalist. This is Iraq before and beyond Saddam, Iraq as the Arabs knew it, in the lives of interesting people living in a vibrant country before the attempted annexation of Kuwait and the American invasion.
“The Egyptian journalist and magazine editor, Hala El Badry, however, delivers much more in this capacious novel that enfolds multiple stories in an a temporal stream of consciousness that melds the personal and political. The reader who is willing to go with the flow will be transported into a complex web of memories that move backward and forward through five years of political change from about 1975 to 1980.”–Bridget Connelly, Washington Independent Review of Books