A prize-winning Iraqi novel of the real and the surreal The Woman of the Flask is a most original novel—a blend of grim realism and fantasy. Two Iraqi exiles reach Switzerland, having escaped from Saddam’s Iraq. One of them, Adam, has brought with him an old flask found among the possessions of his late father who came from the Marshlands of southern Iraq. He polishes it and opens it: a fabulously beautiful nubile young woman appears. She has, it emerges, been the lover of his ancestors going back five thousand years. The novel weaves together the threads of her memories of Adam’s ancestors, his day-to-day life and his work as a computer programmer, his fellow-exile, his Swiss wife, and his coping with the woman of the flask. She is not happy with immortality, and Adam and his friend confront both a European bureaucracy and an alternative world of magic and fantasy. The reader is swept along by a dizzyingly compelling narrative, unsure where the story is going but fascinated by the journey. The novel reflects the complexities of the world of today’s Iraqis—an unprecedented history, a grimmer recent past, but with prospects that challenge imagination.
Selim Matar was born in Iraq and has lived in Geneva for over twenty years. He has been a computer specialist, a journalist, and a novelist. The Woman of the Flask won the al-Naqid Award in 1990.
Peter Clark is a writer based in England. He worked for thirty years with the British Council, mostly in the Arab world. This is the eighth book he has translated from Arabic.
“…being compared with Idris or Mahfouz is high praise for a new author, and as an addition to modern Arabic literature, The Woman of the Flask merits it.”—Cairo Magazine