Saddam Hussein’s final novella, a ‘forgettable piece of pulp’, to be published in English

Hesperus Press says the book, completed by the late dictator in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, is a mix of game of Thrones and House of Cards, and will be published in December under a title yet to be revealed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 6:21pm

A novella written by Saddam Hussein, and finished in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war, is set to be translated into English for the first time by a UK publisher.

Hesperus Press, an independent publisher that releases books that have gone out of print or have yet to find an English translator, will issue the former Iraqi president’s novella in December, to mark the 10th anniversary of his execution.

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Previously published in other languages with titles including Begone Devils and Get Out, You Damned One, the novella focuses on a tribe living by the Euphrates river 1,500 years ago which ousts an invading force. In 2005, The New York Times described it as “a forgettable piece of pulp”.

The manuscript was reportedly carried out of Iraq by Saddam’s daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, in 2003. She announced plans to publish the 186-page novel in Jordan in 2005, before it was quickly banned from sale, resulting in multiple bootleg versions appearing. In 2006, Japanese publisher Tokuma Shoten released it under the title Devil’s Dance. It was also translated into Turkish. Hesperus has yet to announce what its English title will be.

A spokesman for Hesperus described the book as “a mix between Game of Thrones and the UK House of Cards-style fiction”, and said it was full of political intrigue, but that the publisher would be “keeping the rest secret until Christmas”.

In 2015, Hesperus made headlines when it was ordered to stop publishing its English translation of Jonas Jonasson’s smash-hit novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared due to an alleged failure to pay royalties to Hachette Book Group, which owns world English rights.

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“We said we wanted to come back with something interesting,” the spokesperson says. “This is the way we wanted to go ahead … and it is topical, very ‘du jour’, with the Chilcot inquiry and the 10th anniversary coming up.

“We were concerned that some of the writers would not be comfortable to be associated with Hesperus once we published this book, but we’re politically neutral. We only publish what we find interesting.”

Hesperus announced the book’s publication will be tied in with the launch of a new imprint focusing on “Eastern” literature. It will also consider publishing Hussein’s other novels, as well as his memoirs, in the future.

During his life, Hussein published three novels under the pen name “the Author”. In 2000, he wrote Zabiba and the King, with Zabiba representing the Iraqi people, and her cruel, rapist husband symbolising the US. This was followed by The Fortified Castle, a political novel released in 2001, and a thinly disguised autobiographical novel, Men and the City, which came out in 2002.

Before the start of the 2003 Iraq war, all of Hussein’s books were on the Iraqi school syllabus. Since his death, the translation and sale of Hussein’s books has been controversial in many countries, though bootleg copies and translations have sold well.