One Hundred Years of Solitude meets The Kite-Runner in Saddam Hussein's Iraq
"A contemporary tragedy of epic proportions. No author is better placed than Muhsin Al-Ramli, already a star in the Arabic literary scene, to tell this story. I read it in one sitting"
Hassan Blasim, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Iraqi Christ
On the third day of Ramadan, the village wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates by the bus stop.
One of them belonged to one of the most wanted men in Iraq, known to his friends as Ibrahim the Fated.
How did this good and humble man earn the enmity of so many? What did he do to deserve such a death?
The answer lies in his lifelong friendship with Abdullah Kafka and Tariq the Befuddled, who each have their own remarkable stories to tell.
It lies on the scarred, irradiated battlefields of the Gulf War and in the ashes of a revolution strangled in its cradle.
It lies in the steadfast love of his wife and the festering scorn of his daughter.
And, above all, it lies behind the locked gates of The President's Gardens, buried alongside the countless victims of a pitiless reign of terror.
Translated from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren
(P)2017 WF Howes Ltd
Muhsin Al-Ramli is an Iraqi writer, poet, academic and translator, born in the village of Sudara in northern Iraq in 1967. He has lived in Madrid since 1995. The President's Gardens was longlisted for the IPAF, known as the "Arabic Booker", in 2013.
Though firmly rooted in its context, The President's Gardens' concerns are universal. It is a profoundly moving investigation of love, death and injustice, and an affirmation of the importance of dignity, friendship and meaning amid oppression. The novel is undoubtedly a tragedy, but its light touch and persistent humour make it an enormous pleasure to read. — Robin Yassin-Kassab, Guardian.
A story buffeted by the wider tides of history: the bloody churn of dictatorship, invasion and occupation . . . The President's Gardens evokes the fantastical, small town feel of One Hundred Years of Solitude . . . Shocks and enchants. — Tom Gordon, Financial Times.
A beautiful novel . . . Consistently compelling . . . In writing about ordinary Iraqis who pay the cost of wars waged by autocratic leaders, Al-Ramli touches on deep and timeless themes. — Alastair Mabbott, Glasgow Herald.
Deeply painful and satirical, The President's Gardens is a contemporary tragedy of epic proportions. No author is better placed than Muhsin Al-Ramli, already a star in the Arabic literary scene, to tell this story. I read it in one sitting. — Hassan Blasim, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
Like Gabriel García Márquez, with whom he is often compared, Al-Ramli has created a specific village that manages to be universal and a story that is rooted in history while reaching forward into the present day. — Kathy Watson, Tablet.
I took so much pleasure reading a book called The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli. It's got that kind of magical feel that something like One Hundred Years of Solitude has, but it's about Iraq . . . And it is epic, it's absolutely epic . . . It's beautifully written . . . It's one of those novels that achieves something which is quite rare. It's absolutely specific in its context - Iraq, the Iraq conflict, the causes and consequences of it - but it's themes are universal: love, death, injustice, the importance of dignity; how do you find friendship and meaning amid oppression? It's a wonderful book. — John Maytham, The John Maytham Show (South Africa)
A tour de force. — Rachel Halliburton, Prospect.
A stunning read . . . So atmospheric, superb storytelling . . . I absolutely was taken into another world. — Susan Cahill, Newstalk (Ireland).
A stunning achievement. — Ben East, The National.
One of the most important contemporary Iraqi novelists and writers. — El Mundo.
A novel filled with details . . . with passion, homeland, revolution, and grief. It represents a landmark in the progression of Iraqi literature. — Miral Al-Tahawi.
How do you preserve dignity amidst the relentless carnage and mutilation of modern Iraq? Told with a fresh transparency and tender insight, The President's Gardens draws on the unfathomable resilience of the Iraqi people, leaving me speechless and humbled. — Paul MacAlindin, author of Upbeat: The Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.
Masterful. — Malu Halasa, co-author and editor of Syria Speaks.