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The Rope
Cover of The Rope
The Rope
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
From the best-selling author of Republic of Fear, here is a gritty and unflinching novel about Iraqi failure in the wake of the 2003 American invasion, as seen through the eyes of a Shi'ite militiaman whose participation in the execution of Saddam Hussein changes his life in ways he could never have anticipated.

When the nameless narrator stumbles upon a corpse on April 10, 2003, the day of the fall of Saddam Hussein, he finds himself swept up in the tumultuous politics of the American occupation and is taken on a journey that concludes with the discovery of what happened to his father, who disappeared into the Tyrant's gulag in 1991. When he was a child, his questions about his father were ignored by his mother and his uncle, in whose house he was raised. Older now, he is fighting in his uncle's Army of the Awaited One, which is leading an insurrection against the Occupier. He slowly begins to piece together clues about his father's fate, which turns out to be intertwined with that of the mysterious corpse. But not until the last hour before the Tyrant's execution is the narrator given the final piece of the puzzle—from Saddam Hussein himself.

The Rope is both a powerful examination of the birth of sectarian politics out of a legacy of betrayal, victimhood, secrecy, and loss, and an enduring story about the haste with which identity is cobbled together and then undone. Told with fearless honesty and searing intensity, The Rope will haunt its readers long after they finish the final page.
From the best-selling author of Republic of Fear, here is a gritty and unflinching novel about Iraqi failure in the wake of the 2003 American invasion, as seen through the eyes of a Shi'ite militiaman whose participation in the execution of Saddam Hussein changes his life in ways he could never have anticipated.

When the nameless narrator stumbles upon a corpse on April 10, 2003, the day of the fall of Saddam Hussein, he finds himself swept up in the tumultuous politics of the American occupation and is taken on a journey that concludes with the discovery of what happened to his father, who disappeared into the Tyrant's gulag in 1991. When he was a child, his questions about his father were ignored by his mother and his uncle, in whose house he was raised. Older now, he is fighting in his uncle's Army of the Awaited One, which is leading an insurrection against the Occupier. He slowly begins to piece together clues about his father's fate, which turns out to be intertwined with that of the mysterious corpse. But not until the last hour before the Tyrant's execution is the narrator given the final piece of the puzzle—from Saddam Hussein himself.

The Rope is both a powerful examination of the birth of sectarian politics out of a legacy of betrayal, victimhood, secrecy, and loss, and an enduring story about the haste with which identity is cobbled together and then undone. Told with fearless honesty and searing intensity, The Rope will haunt its readers long after they finish the final page.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book The Hanging
     
    Morning

     
    I checked my watch, over and over again, determined to catch the precise moment when the lever would be released. I still almost missed it, the trapdoor clanging open before he had finished reciting his prayers.
     
    “The Tyrant was hanged on Saturday, December 30, 2006, at 6:09 a.m.,” I wrote in the evening of that day in a blue-ruled school notebook, whose cardboard covers Mother, God rest her soul, had lovingly wrapped in pink paper decorated with white carnations. She never let me throw away those old notebooks, mandatory in my secondary school in Najaf. The notes I recorded in them between 2003 and 2006 form the backbone of this account.
     
    Three hours and ten minutes earlier, at 2:59 a.m. precisely, he had been transferred to Iraqi sovereignty for the first time since his cap­ture, proof of our independence from the American invaders.
     
    His transfer came on the heels of “a bitter struggle between us and the Occupier,” my uncle and mentor said.
     
    “Did the Occupier agree to the transfer?” I asked Uncle.
     
    “Not at first; they fought hard to delay it. But they caved in,” Uncle replied, “like they always do.”
     
    The prime minister wanted the hanging to coincide with the day Sunni Muslims celebrated the first of the four-day Great Feast, and he wanted it to coincide with the day of his son’s marriage. All in the government agreed a higher authority had to rule. And so it was.
     
    After the Sunni Grand Mufti decreed the first day of the Great Feast to be December 30, 2006, our Shiʻa clerics ruled that a hang­ing on the day before the Great Feast was permissible, but not on its first day. And so the prime minister settled on the earliest hour of the morning of the Great Feast, minutes before sunrise and the start of the Great Feast, as the day of the hanging. Technically, the Tyrant would be hanged and the prime minister’s son married the day before our Great Feast started.
     
    Sunni clerics saw through the prime minister’s ruse. They said the Tyrant, a Sunni, was in fact being executed on a day Sunni Muslims consider a celebration, thus spoiling their Feast; meanwhile, we Shiʻa got to celebrate the day our bitterest enemy had been executed, thus enhancing our celebrations.
     
    Thus was the order of the firmament set by the timing of the ris­ing of the sun; it permitted us to execute one of theirs on the first day of their Feast, but not them to execute one of ours on the same day; and this even though all are Believers of the one true faith. It has always been thus.
     
    The body of the Tyrant was flown by helicopter to the prime minister’s house, where the wedding celebrations were under way. Accompanied by a chanting, delirious crowd waving Kalashnikovs in the air, the corpse was carried from the helicopter’s landing pad to the front door of the house, vacated for the prime minister’s use by twelve American lieutenant colonels. At the door of the house in which the wedding party was being held, the shroud was peeled back from the Tyrant’s face in his coffin, exposing his bruised and broken neck to the frenzied delight of the chanting mob.
     
    Our new rulers, including the prime minister, are former exiles, returning from cities like London, Tehran, and Damascus. I do not know whether revenge, or blood libel, or communal solidarity was behind the timing of the hanging; perhaps all of them. There are no written records to support one view or the other. On the...
About the Author-
  • KANAN MAKIYA was born in Baghdad. He is the author of several books, including the best-selling Republic of Fear, The Monument, The Rock, and the award-winning Cruelty and Silence. He is currently the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 15, 2016
    A searing novel of the Iraq War from an Iraqi point of view, with Saddam Hussein in a starring role. Our narrator has no name, but The Tyrant certainly does, and it is on every tongue. As Makiya's (The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem, 2003, etc.) novel opens, Saddam's body is swaying in the breeze, having been transferred by The Occupier to the Iraqis as "proof of our independence from the American invaders." Into that brief phrase a whole world is packed: the Americans are unwanted conquerors, the rulers of Iraq are exiles driven to hang Saddam out of "revenge, or blood libel, or communal solidarity," and a once-coherent nation, for better or worse, is now splintered irreparably. The narrator, who turns up at key moments in this destruction, has an overarching goal: to find out what happened to his father in 1991, when, in the wake of the first Gulf War, a purge Stalin might have envied swept through Saddam's ranks. What he learns about that tragedy, clue by clue, makes it all the more unpalatable. Meanwhile, Saddam, who "lives not in [Iraqi] hearts but in their heads as an idea, a fixation they cannot rid themselves of, even though he has nothing to do with their lives," emerges from the shadows of his hidden bunker to become a character much like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, helping the narrator tease out the truth in a kind of twisted Socratic dialogue: "I was your president," he intones. "And you are my children, whether you like it or not; even the bastards who sat in judgment over me are my children." In that fatherly role, Saddam asserts that a nation is really just an idea, and no matter how poisonous the idea might be, it is hard to uproot once planted. A close study of the psychology of oppression and dictatorship, of a piece with the author's now classic nonfiction study Republic of Fear (1989).

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2016
    In a post-Saddam Iraq already burdened with sobering statistics, here's a particularly compelling one: there were 268 separate armed organizations operating between 2003 and 2006. Which one of these was to blame for the killing of Sayyid Majid al-Khoei in Najaf, one of Islam's holiest cities, on the same day that the Tyrant was put to death? This real-life tragedy, along with the mystery behind his father's disappearance, galvanizes the unnamed narrator of Makiya's (The Rock, 2002) penetrating novel about Iraqi politics and who really is to blame for the geopolitical devastation that continues to unfold in the Middle East. Learning the ropes of a shaky world from his uncle, the young Shia narrator finds himself schooled in hate, a vehicle he finds difficult to reconcile with the message of love and the larger concept of nationhood. Astutely challenging the meaning of statehood and allegiance (is he an Arab first, an Iraqi, or a Shia, the narrator wonders), this deeply resonant tale of betrayal and loss reads as much as an act of atonement for Makiya, a vocal supporter of the Iraq War, as it does about the fundamental nature of Iraqi power plays. Nuanced and essential reading for every global citizen, this novel proves that all politics are personal.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2015

    Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University, Makiya was born in Baghdad; his 1989 Republic of Fear became a best seller with the advent of the first Gulf War. This novel, featuring a Shiite militiaman whose father was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein, examines life in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, which Makiya supported.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Michael Walzer, author of Just and Unjust Wars "Americans know very little about Iraq, and this was as true at the beginning of our war there as it is today. Now Kanan Makiya has written a fictionalized narrative of the first years of the American occupation, seen from the Iraqi (and the Shi'ite) side. His book is a remarkable evocation of those terrible years, simultaneously informative, scary, worrying, and deeply engaging. Start reading it and you won't stop--and don't skip the beautifully written, morally and politically powerful personal note at the end."
  • Kirkus Reviews, *starred review* "A searing novel of the Iraq War from an Iraqi point of view, with Saddam Hussein in a starring role. Our narrator has no name, but The Tyrant certainly does, and it is on every tongue. As Makiya's novel opens, Saddam's body is swaying in the breeze, having been transferred by The Occupier to the Iraqis as 'proof of our independence from the American invaders.' Into that brief phrase a whole world is packed: the Americans are unwanted conquerors, the rulers of Iraq are exiles driven to hang Saddam out of 'revenge, or blood libel, or communal solidarity,' and a once-coherent nation, for better or worse, is now splintered irreparably.... A close study of the psychology of oppression and dictatorship, of a piece with the author's now classic nonfiction study Republic of Fear (1989)."
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