December 06, 2003


A promising literary career is cruelly cut short:

Less than a month before the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was focusing on his latest novel. Be Gone, Demons! told the story of Ibrahim and his three grandchildren, Ezekiel, Aissa and Youssef, who symbolised Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, the prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ezekiel was portrayed as evil, obsessed with money and sexually deficient. Ezekiel becomes a moneylender and arms dealer whose machinations pit tribes against each other. He falls in love with a woman who resists him. He tries to rape her but she escapes. In the novel’s climax, Ezekiel is killed by ‘just men’ in a battle on the plains of Mesopotamia. The demon is gone and Iraq can flourish.

That last line sounds about right. The above is from Philip Delves Broughton’s interview with Saddam’s former interpreter, Saman Abdul Majid, who was no fan of his boss’s convoluted, digressive, Kingstonian writing style:

‘It was virtually impossible to translate into English because I had to chop up these endless sentences. Let’s just say Saddam was no Naguib Mahfouz.’

Man. Harsh. And there’s this interesting information:

Saman says that he was asked to leave the room for 15 minutes during Galloway’s last meeting with Saddam in January this year. ‘Were they talking “business”? A mystery,’ he says in his book.

Well, let’s not jump to any conclusions. They could’ve just been having sex.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 6, 2003 04:00 PM

What's the difference between Hillary Clinton and Saddam Hussein? Apparently Saddam doesn't use a ghostwriter.

Posted by: Lee at December 6, 2003 at 04:41 PM

Thanks for making me laugh Tim.

Posted by: gaz at December 6, 2003 at 07:01 PM

Who would be the 'bitch'? Yeah, like we really have to ask

Posted by: Amos at December 6, 2003 at 11:26 PM

"It was virtually impossible to translate into English because I had to chop up these endless sentences."

Could Saddam be moonlighting as Margo Kingston?

Posted by: Ross at December 6, 2003 at 11:28 PM

"Could Saddam be moonlighting as Margo Kingston?"

Hm. That explains the moustache.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 7, 2003 at 12:30 AM

That was too funny! That last sentence caught me totally by surpise.

Posted by: Yngwie at December 7, 2003 at 03:31 AM

I can certainly see Galloway & Saddam fighting over who gets to be the Saddamite, who gets Saddamized. I presume the argument would come to blows.

Posted by: Carl H. at December 7, 2003 at 03:52 AM

Yeah, but does Harold Pinter speak when Saddam drinks water?
Sorry - couldn't help it...

Posted by: Joe at December 7, 2003 at 04:30 AM

And how many of you wise men have actually read Naguib Mahfouz?

Yeah, I thought so.

Posted by: Berkus at December 7, 2003 at 10:25 AM

And... your point is? No one here said anything pro or con re Mafouz -- the reference to said author came from Saddam's former interpreter. Since you seem, Dorkus, to have trouble reading a simple passage in plain English, I have the feeling you haven't read any Naguib Mafouz either.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 7, 2003 at 11:39 AM


Also, see headline.

Posted by: Berkus at December 7, 2003 at 12:06 PM

Yeah. See "quoting." Look it up on

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 8, 2003 at 02:28 AM

Then check out this site for "let's have a snigger at his funny Arab name". Hee! Who dat A-rab?

Also, let me know next time Tim wins the Nobel Prize for literature.

(Note for "ignoranti" — this may be what Mahfouz is famous for.)

Posted by: Berkus at December 8, 2003 at 07:14 AM

Who was having a "snigger" at anyone's name here? You know, I think you should refrain from reading things on the internet while drunk.

By the way, do you even know who Naguib Mahfouz is? Why don't you tell me the titles and plots of the works of his you have read? Which ones would you recommend to us ignorant ones? Or are you simply talking out of your ass, as I suspect?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 8, 2003 at 09:51 AM

Do I even know who Naguib Mahfouz is? Why the fuck should I tell an idiot like you anything, much less write a book report for you to sneer at? Here's another word for your perusal: "editorialising". And while we're here, (a) "you don't agree with my interpretation of a sentence", so (b) "you must not understand English too well", thus (c) "you haven't read Mahfouz/ are talking out of your arse, you are drunk, (etc., etc.), is a wonderful argument.

That said, why don't you try the Cairo trilogy? Admirers of the nineteenth century French and Russian novel (which is more or less the high-water mark of the form) frequently find these books congenial.

Posted by: Berkus at December 8, 2003 at 03:10 PM

So I'm an idiot for pointing out your stupidity, huh, Dorkus? I notice you didn't even answer my question as to who was making fun of anyone's name (except yours, which is not Arabic). In fact, you changed the subject every time -- when asked you what your point was in asking if anyone here had read Mahfouz, you came back with "See the headline!" which did not answer the question, since the headline merely contained that author's name, and in fact this entire post said nothing one way or the other about Mahfouz. It only (as I will repeat since you seem -- ooh, personal attack coming! -- to be rather dense) quoted another person comparing Saddam Hussein's writing skills unfavorably to those of Naguib Mahfouz. In other words, Tim Blair quoted a passage of someone using Naguib Mahfouz as a touchstone of good writing. NO ONE here, including the commenters, made fun of or otherwise criticized Naguib Mahfouz, or otherwise said anything one way or another about the man's writing. You saw an insult that wasn't there, and you continued in your delusional state to see other insults that weren't there.

In short, you came here, trolled, and got slammed for it, and like the typical troll your teensy ego can't take it. Go piss up a rope.

Oh, and thanks so much for the book recommendation.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 8, 2003 at 09:41 PM

Man, it's so harsh to be unfavourably compared to that fellow with the A-rab name who nobody has ever heard of. Snicker, snicker! Promising career cut short! No Naguib! Let's use his first name only, (only quoting!), it makes for better symmetry with "Saddam"! Tee hee! Snork, snork!

What part of back-of-the-hand snicker don't you understand?

Still, maybe you didn't get the joke, in which case you are excused.

Posted by: Berkus at December 9, 2003 at 09:48 AM

I only get jokes that are funny and make sense, moron.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 9, 2003 at 10:00 AM