This devil is gone

Having an author with instant international name recognition is not always a benefit

US soldiers stroll past two bronze busts of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Hadi Mizban / AP
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Who doesn’t like a good war story laced with elements of intrigue, especially when the author is a renowned expert in such matters? And how better to mark the 10th anniversary of the writer’s untimely death than the first English translation of a historic novella its British publisher has described as “a mix between Game of Thrones and the UK House of Cards-style fiction”?

This kind of prepublicity would usually be a publisher’s dream but such benefits are somewhat eclipsed when the author is revealed to be Saddam Hussein. The former Iraqi dictator wrote Begone Devils in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion, so it is hardly surprising that the plot involves a heroic Mesopotamian civilisation repelling an invading barbarian army. Reviews of the Arabic version were not kind, but we doubt that will put off determined readers.

We also suspect that banning the novel would only draw more attention to what is, undoubtedly, a very bad and forgettable book.