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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
'Saddam novel' to be staged
Saddam Hussein
Saddam has not confirmed he has turned to writing
A novel thought to have been written by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will be performed this week in the Iraqi National Theatre, officials have said.

Zabibah and the King, the tragic tale of a ruler who falls in love with an unhappily married woman, has been adapted for the stage by Palestinian-born poet Adeeb Nasir.

The production is the most ambitious in the Baghdad theatre's history.


They brought shame to the Arab uniform they wear

From Zabibah and the King

"It took me one year to read the epic novel... but I made it into a play in 15 days," Adeeb was quoted as saying by the Ministry of Culture.

The novel was published a year ago to rave reviews in the Iraqi press, which hinted that it had been penned by Saddam.

It came out at the same time as another mystery novel - The Fortified Castle - which was also believed to be the work of the Iraqi president.

Each book was described on the cover as "a novel by its author".

Gulf War

Television, radio and newspapers all carried daily advertisements for the books ahead of publication.

Last year, plans were announced to turn Zabibah and the King into a 20-part television series in Iraq.

Events in the Gulf War resonate in the novel.

The heroine, Zabibah, is raped on 17 January - the date that US-led forces launched the offensive in 1991 which eventually drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

One sentence - "they brought shame to the Arab uniform they wear" - has been interpreted as a criticism of the leaders of neighbouring countries during the conflict.

The king dies after capturing the rapists and avenging Zabibah's honour.

See also:

12 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Saddam 'novel' to be dramatised
20 Dec 01 | Arts
Saddam 'second novel' in print
04 Jan 01 | Middle East
Saddam Hussein profile
20 Mar 02 | Arts
Saddam 'pens two more novels'
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