Hassan Blasim was born in Baghdad in 1973. He studied at the city's Academy of Cinematic Arts, where he twice won the Academy's Festival Award for Best Work. In 2004 he moved to Finland, and has since made numerous documentaries for Finish television. His short stories have previously been published on www.iraqstory.com.

Short Story Collections

The Madman of Freedom Square
(Comma Press, 2009)

reviewed by Mithran Somasundrum

Interview with Hassan Blasim

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Hassan Blasim: I wrote the collection over the course of about four years.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

HB: No, during writing I never thought about which stories I’d choose for a collection... I’ve written a great many stories over the last four years, but then in the end I only selected eleven of them for inclusion in The Madman of Freedom Square.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

HB: My choice of stories for The Madman of Freedom Square was made based on their engagement with war as a theme, and their treatment of the peculiar predicaments and humanitarian nightmares that distinguish it. The stories in the collection also all have in common a characteristically ironic approach to the madness of war - whether they are stories about people who left the country, emigrating, or about those who carried on with their lives whilst being mangled by the machinery of war and destruction. So the stories deal with what went on in Iraq during 30 years, in the era of the dictatorship and then in the era of the US occupation. As for the order they appear in, that was the editor of Comma Press’s choice.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

HB: To me the story is, perhaps, the testimony of one’s imagination on the misery and the nightmares and the pains of the human being in our world...

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

HB:  I don’t think about a specific reader; what matters to me while I’m writing is the story.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

HB: Anything and everything the reader says is beautiful and important.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

HB: Fantastic

TSR: What are you working on now?

HB: I’m working on some more stories, and I’m also writing about my childhood in Kirkuk city, for my autobiography.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

HB: The collection Road to Nowhere by the Iraqi writer and translator Adnan Al-Mubarak; and I reread Franz Kafka’s collection, translated into Arabic as The Wall of China; and I read a selection of William Faulkner’s short fiction translated into Arabic as Black Music. In fact, because of my work as editor of the website www.iraqstory.com I read a lot of stories every week, both Arabic and foreign ones in translation, which are all sent to the site by writers and translators.

(translated from the Arabic by Alice Guthrie)
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