Informed by firsthand experience on the battlefronts of Iraq and Syria, Abdoh captures the horror, confusion, and absurdity of combat from a seldom-glimpsed perspective that expands our understanding of the war novel.
"Abdoh's powerful novel follows an Iranian war reporter who is torn between his wearying job on the front lines and a civilian existence that he finds increasingly alienating. The book is as much a reflection on memory and art as it is a war story, and Abdoh's writing captures beautifully the absurdity of both the battlefield and modern life."
—New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
Saleh, the narrator of Out of Mesopotamia, is a middle-aged Iranian journalist who moonlights as a writer for one of Iran's most popular TV shows but cannot keep himself away from the front lines in neighboring Iraq and Syria. There, the fight against the Islamic State is a proxy war, an existential battle, a declaration of faith, and, for some, a passing weekend affair.
After weeks spent dodging RPGs, witnessing acts of savagery and stupidity, Saleh returns to civilian life in Tehran but finds it to be an unbearably dislocating experience. Pursued by his official handler from state security, opportunistic colleagues, and the woman who broke his heart, Saleh has reason to again flee from everyday life. Surrounded by men whose willingness to achieve martyrdom both fascinates and appalls him, Saleh struggles to make sense of himself and the turmoil in his midst.
An unprecedented glimpse into "endless war" from a Middle Eastern perspective, Out of Mesopotamia follows in the tradition of the Western canon of martial writers—from Hemingway and Orwell to Tim O'Brien and Philip Caputo—but then subverts and expands upon the genre before completely blowing it apart. Drawing from his firsthand experience of being embedded with Shia militias on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Abdoh gives agency to the voiceless while offering a meditation on war that is moving, humane, darkly funny, and resonantly true.
One of The Margins' 100 Essential Books by Iranian Writers
• One of Vulture's Fall 2020 Best New Books
• One of Publishers Weekly's Big Indie Books of Fall 2020 and a Best Book of the Year
• A Chicago Review of Books Must-Read Book of September 2020
"[A] superb pressure cooker of a novel . . . Abdoh brilliantly fuses the confusions of combat and modern life to produce an unforgettable novel. This is one of the best works of literature on the war against ISIS to date."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review, book of the week
"Abdoh explores the lives behind the war-torn headlines in a way that captures the full humanity of the participants. Channeling a bit of Tim O'Brien and a good deal of Joseph Heller, he has written the best novel to date on the Middle East's ceaseless wars." —Library Journal, starred review
"[A] searing, poetic, and morally authentic account of contemporary conflict. Abdoh eloquently depicts the absurdity of war, employing darkly comic interludes while also showing the devastating brutality." —Booklist"One of a handful of great modern war novels . . . These wars will not end until we look at what we are doing and what we have done. Abdoh's novel lifts the veil on the murderous insanity."
—Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist
"Out of Mesopotamia is a brutally realistic look at war and love and fear and everything else that humans do. The writing is impossibly good. The characters aren't characters at all—they seem to have emerged fully formed from the blood-soaked soil of Syria and Iraq. And they rise up to live out a story that is as old as history and yet somehow could only have happened today. I'm stunned by how good this book is."
—Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
"Transcendent." —Daily Beast
"[A]n unprecedented novel, one that captures the brutality, absurdity and, yes, beauty of war from the grounded perspective of an Iranian man straddling multiple worlds." —BOMB
"If history is written by the victors than most good war novels are written by those accustomed to losing, and Out of Mesopotamia calls to mind the grim brilliance of Czech writers like Bohumil Hrabal and Jaroslav Hasek—which is to say it is really fucking funny. And maybe this is at the heart of Abdoh's genius, the art and instinct for getting very close to the darkest corners of humanity without succumbing to the despair that dwells therein." —Literary Hub, Jonny Diamond's Favorite Book of 2020
"[P]rofound . . . With first-hand experience with militias in Iraq and Syria, Abdoh travels between war and peace in his novel, picking up on the in-between moments, the ones that are not glorified and where suffering is silent." —Arab News (Saudi Arabia)