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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 17:08 GMT
Saddam 'second novel' in print
Saddam Hussein
Saddam has not confirmed he has turned to writing
A new book published in Iraq is believed to be the second novel written by President Saddam Hussein.

Al-Qala'ah al-Hasinah - The Fortified Castle - has hit the shelves in bookshops and libraries in Baghdad, with the state-run television station hailing it as a "great artistic work".

There is no indication on the front cover as to the writer's identity, simply the words "novel by its author".

Last year the novel Zabibah and the King was reportedly the work of Saddam Hussein, despite being written anonymously.

Saddam Hussein's son Uday
Uday Hussein: Alternative author?
There are now plans to turn the first book into a 20-part television series.

Al-Qala'ah al-Hasinah has been heavily promoted and has won rave reviews in the Iraqi media, leading to the conclusion Saddam Hussein penned the 713-page paperback.

One reviewer called it an "innovation which nobody has managed to achieve during the past century".

Political message

The story is about a militant hero of the Iraq-Iran and Gulf wars who manages to escape from Iranian jail and return to Baghdad to study.

As well as having a political message, the book is also a romance after the protagonist falls for a Kurdish girl who has fled from Northern Iraq.

The area has been out of Saddam Hussein's control since the Gulf War but he has recently urged Kurdish officials to open talks with his government.

The book also features scenes of US and British warplanes bombing Iraq's military targets in Northern Iraq.

There is also a sub-plot about a servant betraying his master by attempting to kill him and escaping with his sister and animals.

Veiled reference

But the master takes revenge by killing them both.

Critics have seen this as a veiled reference to Iraq's feelings that it was betrayed by Kuwait, which it accused of stealing its oil before invading in 1990.

The novel thought to be Saddam Hussein's debut told the story of a king who falls in love with a poor, married woman.

It was also published to rave reviews and references in it led to the opinion it was written by him or possibly by his son Uday.

See also:

04 Jan 01 | Middle East
Saddam Hussein profile
29 May 01 | Middle East
Saddam accused of stealing artwork
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