Fiction in Translation
English edition  
224 pp.
15X23 cm
ISBN 9789774166051
For sale only in the Middle East



Betool Khedairi
Translated by Muhayman Jamil

A new paperback edition of the outstanding novel of life under sanctions in Iraq

Absent tells the story of Dalal, a young Iraqi woman living with the childless aunt and uncle who raised her. Dalal and her neighbors try to maintain normal lives, despite the crippling effect of bombings and international sanctions resulting from the first Gulf War. By turns affectionate, wry, and darkly comic, Absent paints a moving portrait of people struggling to get by in impossible circumstances. Upstairs, the fortune-teller Umm Mazin offers her customers cures for their physical and romantic ailments; below, Saad the hairdresser attends to a dwindling number of female customers; and on the second floor, the nurse Ilham dreams of her long-lost French mother to escape the grim realities she sees in the children’s ward at the hospital. With memories of happier times during the “Days of Plenty” of her childhood, Dalal falls in love for the first time against a background of surprise arrests, personal betrayals, and a crumbling social fabric that turns neighbors into informants. Tightly crafted and skillfully told, Absent is a haunting portrait of life under sanctions, the fragile emotional ties between individuals, and, ultimately, the resilience of the human spirit.
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Betool Khedairi, born in Baghdad in 1965 to an Iraqi father and a Scottish mother, received a BA in French literature from the University of Mustansiriya. Her first novel, A Sky So Close, was published in 1999. She currently lives in Amman, Jordan. Muhayman Jamil, born in Baghdad, is a literary translator and an associate specialist in palliative medicine in London.

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“The author’s candid style creates a cast of truthful characters that are almost tangible and, despite the bleak backdrop of their lives, Khedairi’s black sense of humor and her talented storytelling make Absent a pleasurable read.”—The Daily Star, May 2006

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