Brutal but beautiful
'Consistently compelling' – Review:
by Muhsin Al-Ramli
FOR such a beautiful novel, The President’s Gardens begins on a gruesome note. A village in Iraq awakens to find nine banana crates, each containing the severed head of one of the villagers, some disfigured by torture. To explain how they eventually came to be there, Muhsin Al-Ramli (in a fine translation from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren) tells us the story of three boyhood friends, “the sons of the earth crack”, and of how they fared in the period encompassing the Iran-Iraq War, the invasion of Kuwait, the purges which re-established Saddam Hussein’s authority after his military misadventuring and the occupation of Iraq by America and her allies. In writing about ordinary Iraqis who pay the cost of wars waged by remote, autocratic leaders, Al-Ramli touches on deep and timeless themes. The human capacity for both nobility and wanton destruction. Pain and healing. The different shades of love. The capriciousness of fate.