Fadhil al-Azzawi (Trans. William M. Hutchins)

The Last of the Angels: A Modern Iraqi Novel [Free Press]

Books  |  Reviews
Fadhil al-Azzawi (Trans. William M. Hutchins)
Iraqi treasure rediscovered

It’s easy to understand why Fadhil al-Azzawi’s The Last of the Angels was banned in his native Iraq when first published in 1992. His vision of Kirkuk in the ’50s is more than darkly comic: a place where Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Assyrians hate each other almost as much as the living hate the dead, and everyone is looking for a miracle to claim as their own—if only to use it against everyone else.

Corporate imperialism, government corruption, religion and provincial culture are eviscerated in al-Azzawi’s perfect pretzel logic, a balance of sublime comedy and misery reminiscent of Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut.

Would-be revolutionary Hameed Nylon, butcher-turned-community-leader Khidir Musa and budding author Burhan Abdullah are all forced to navigate this world, looking for angels and truth and finding mostly ghosts and lies. And when Abdallah faces his final moment of despair over his community’s descent into chaos, al-Azzawi provides, at long last, transcendence.

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