An Iraqi in Paris: a lifetime of movement, forced and long-dreamt
The title of this book makes me sad and i haven’t even read it yet! I can almost guarantee it is an inspiring read, but the journey this guy has had to go through seems arduous – Definitely something i’ll be reading on the plane this summer. Actually, anything to understand more about an Iraqi trying to escape Saddam’s autocracy …
Iraq in the early months of 1979. Saddam Hussein is circling endlessly around Baghdad, building his influence, tightening his grip on the mechanisms of power, ready to seize complete control of the country within a matter of months. Indeed, tomorrow (July 16), marks the 32nd unhappy anniversary of the occasion when he became the nation’s leader.
Meanwhile, in Al-Habbaniyah, a short distance west of Baghdad, Samuel Shimon is dreaming of Hollywood. Shimon is in his early twenties, a frustrated filmmaker desperate to escape the prospect of life under Saddam. To do so, he has a breathtakingly simple plan. He will make his way to the US, where he will carve out his fortune as a movie director.
Three decades later, he has yet to make good on that plan.
Instead, his flight from Iraq took him first to Damascus, then onwards to Amman, Beirut, Nicosia, Cairo and Tunis before, in 1985, he found himself as a refugee in Paris. He would stay there for more than a decade, before upping sticks once again, this time to London in 1996, where he has since settled.
What he experienced in the French capital would provide all the material Shimon needed to write and later publish An Iraqi in Paris, his somewhat autobiographical novel.
It is a work that was almost overwhelmingly well-received when first published six years ago in both Arabic and English and was later nominated for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Literary Reportage in 2006 and longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award the following year. It is also a funny, charming, episodic work that has recently been repackaged and republished in English by Bloomsbury Qatar