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War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction

Ikram Masmoudi

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Examines tangible experiences of war and occupation in recent Iraqi fiction

The last three decades in Iraqi history can be summarized in these words: dictatorship, war and occupation. After the fall of Saddam’s regime Iraqi novelists are not only writing about the occupation and the current disintegration of Iraq but are also revisiting previous wars that devastated their lives. This book examines how recent Iraqi fiction about war depicts the Iraqi subject in its relation to war, coercion, subjugation and occupation. The theoretical medieval concept of the homo sacer, the killable, as defined by Giorgio Agamben is used to explore the lives and the experiences of different war actors such as the soldier, the war deserter, the camp detainee and the suicide bomber depicted in their “bare life” as men doomed to death in the necropolitical context.

War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction is an exploration of fictional works by a new generation of leading Iraqi authors such as Ali Badr, Shakir Nuri, Najm Wali, Hdiya Hussein and others. It brings to light the overarching continuum in the production of homines sacri in Iraq. Instances of homo sacer under the dictatorship are complemented by new instances found in the camp and under the state of exception of the occupation and the war on terror.

Key Features

  • Explores fictional works by a new generation of leading Iraqi authors such as Ali Badr, Shakir Nuri, Najm Wali and Hdiya Hussein
  • Provides a historical contextualization of the Iraqi novel before and after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime
  • Presents an analytical and critical study of a selected corpus of novels about war and occupation in Iraq
  • Explores tangible experiences of war and occupation – such as desertion, camp detention and suicide bombing – in the Iraqi novel


1. The Iran–Iraq War and the Bare Life of the War Deserter
2. Postmodern War, the Gulf War, and the Iraqi Soldier
3. Bare Life’ in the ‘New Iraq’
4. Bare Life in the Camp

About the Author

Ikram Masmoudi is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Delaware. She has translated Beyond Love a novel by Hadiya Hussein and is currently working on the translation of The Green Zone a novel by Iraqi author Shakir Nuri.


'Post-occupation Iraqi fiction, or post-2003 fiction, is largely absent from the literary accounts of the war in the US. This is why Ikram Masmoudi's War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, published this year, is a necessary and welcome intervention.'
- Nahrain Al-Mousawi, Middle East Monitor

‘With Masmoudi's astute analyses of a group of recent fictional works by Iraqi writers, we enter the disastrous worlds of Iraqi men and women trapped in spirals of conflict and desertion, of bravery and cowardice, of homes and camps. If fiction does indeed give insights into "nations", then Masmoudi's study provides its readers with a vivid portrait of an Iraq whose recent history amidst its different regions and religious affiliations – quite apart from dictatorships and foreign invasions – leads us to wonder what its future may hold.’

- Roger Allen, Emeritus Professor, University of Pennsylvania
‘There are several reasons to heartily celebrate War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction…[it] fills a serious gap in scholarship on Iraqi literature. Uniquely, Masmoudi’s monograph establishes itself as a book about the metrics of war, occupation, and incarceration as they confine or annihilate the modern masculine experience in Iraq. It is, to my knowledge, the first and only substantial study in English of the post-2003 Iraqi novel.’
- Yasmeen Hanoosh, Portland State University, Journal of Arabic Literature

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