The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli
A multi-generational tale of Iraq with a magical tinge
By: Tom Gordon
APRIL 13, 2017 Financial Times
The President’s Gardens evokes the fantastical, small town feel of One Hundred Years of Solitude. During Ramadan in 2006, nine decapitated heads are delivered to an Iraqi village, setting in motion a narrative that spans generations. One of the heads belongs to Ibrahim, who is the spine of a story buffeted by the wider tides of history: the bloody churn of dictatorship, invasion and occupation.
At times the magical tinge is clear, as with the flayed corpse whose accusing eyes cannot be closed. At others, the lurid horror of reality needs no embellishment. “The skies rained down hell, the earth vomited it back up . . . the simple Iraqi soldiers who resisted fought in despair and died.” The President’s Gardens may feel familiar, but it still shocks and enchants.