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The Last of the Angels: A Modern Iraqi Novel…
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The Last of the Angels: A Modern Iraqi Novel (1992)

by Fadhil al-Azzawi

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I was intrigued with this book, for the content (based on the back cover) and the vibrant front cover. I even got one of my RL book groups to read it. None of us liked it or finished it. Edit: at the meeting 3 of us didn't like it or finish. 2 liked 75% of the book, but not the ending. They skimmed the ending, because it didn't seem to them to match the rest of the story.

I found the translation to be pretty good, and some parts of it are interesting, in terms of the culture, society, and introduction of modern technology in 1950s Iraq. It also is set in a time when the country was run by the Brits, and colonized by their oil company. We forget about those details.

There are several problems for me though. The book says it is about a man who drives a car for one of the top executives at the oil company. He is an Iraqi and his culture is very different than the Brits. He makes a mistake and is fired for it. Unfortunately, though that is what is blurbed on the back cover, that isn't really what the book is about. It is very much a magical realism type of book, and the premise above is only the way into the story about the community (a neighborhood in Kirkuk).

After the first few pages the story veers off to follow whatever is brought up. A new person, we go and read about his life, family, and dreams. Then it jumps to someone else, and another and another. We even end up following the dreams of a cat. While that could be interesting as a one off, the whole book is like that. The result is that there is no anchor for me. I don't have any feeling or interest in the characters, so the brief events of their lives don't interest me. The stories also don't grab me.

The full names used are also confusing, and often similar so I am never sure who is being referred to. Some people only appear once, and some are recurring, but because you keep jumping around you are never sure.

I got to about page 100 and just couldn't force myself to read more. I feel bad that I couldn't enjoy it and finish it, and I am sure that I am the problem more than the book. ( )
  FicusFan | Dec 18, 2009 |
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