Two Blankets, Three Sheets does for the beleaguered political asylum seeker stuck in legal limbo what Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 did for the hapless soldier trapped in a military at war…Translated from the Dutch into nimble and conversational English by Jonathan Reeder…it is a tale for and of our time."—Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Los Angeles Review of Books
Based on the author’s true story, this is the account of Iraqi refugee Samir, who spends nine years in an asylum center in the Netherlands.
Amsterdam Airport, 1998. Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. Fleeing Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army, he has spent seven years anonymously wandering through Asia. Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum center and assigned a bed in a shared dorm—where he will spend the next nine years. As he navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy, Samir tries his best to get along with his 500 new housemates. Told with compassion and a unique sense of humor, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.
RODAAN AL GALIDI is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker, he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.
JONATHAN REEDER, a native of New York and longtime resident of Amsterdam, enjoys a dual career as a literary translator and performing musician. Alongside his work as a professional bassoonist he translates opera libretti and essays on classical music, as well as contemporary Dutch fiction by authors including Peter Buwalda, Bram Dehouck, Christine Otten, Adri van der Heijden, and Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi. His recent translations include Rivers by Martin Michael Driessen (winner of the 2016 ECI Literature Prize) and The Lonely Funeral by Maarten Inghels and F. Starik.
"In his tragicomic memoir, Al Galidi, an Iraqi migrant to the Netherlands, captured the Kafkaesque alienation of the process of settling in Europe, an ordeal even though it was ultimately successful." —Foreign Affairs, Books for the Century
"Two Blankets, Three Sheets does for the beleaguered political asylum seeker stuck in legal limbo what Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 did for the hapless soldier trapped in a military at war…Translated from the Dutch into nimble and conversational English by Jonathan Reeder…it is a tale for and of our time."—Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Los Angeles Review of Books
"At once funny and bleak, this novel by the Iraq-born Dutch novelist draws on his personal experiences to expose the cruel and often absurd procedural challenges that immigrants must endure...an engrossing and exasperating novel. Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a tale of belonging and what it means to be human in a world that deems people less important than government protocols." —Matt Hanson, Words Without Borders
"...expertly dissects the statelessness that plagues today's refugees...The nuanced narrative does not hide darker currents of depression or loss of personhood. A blunt and surprisingly humorous peek at an aspect of global displacement that remains largely hidden from public view." —Kirkus Reviews
“No other book I have read makes the soul-destroying effects of European asylum procedures more vividly clear than this one.” —Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs
“An absolute treat…Al Galidi has an eye for the absurd…all the more striking because of the lightness of the telling.” —John Self, Irish Times
“Ably translated into English for an American readership by Jonathan Reeder, Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a deftly written and engaging novel that showcases author Rodaan Al Galidi's exceptionally effective narrative storytelling style.” —Midwest Book Review
"Two Blankets, Three Sheets is an interesting, rich novel on fear, insecurity, arbitrariness and hopelessness." —Guus Bauer, author of Bird Boy
"This is an unnerving, ironical book about how lives are grinded down by endlessly stretched procedures."— Leeuwarder Courant
"Al Galidi writes this novel based on his own experiences, but he manages to cover that up so well with his fluent writing style, a sense of humor and an absence of resentment. A real feat in his case. The lighthearted way in which he writes about tragic experiences makes this a very impactful book." —Kristien Hemmerechts, author of The Woman Who Fed the Dogs
"Book of the month? Book of the year! Rodaan Al Galidi has been writing beautiful books for years, but this is his absolute masterpiece. Loose, light and humoristic, and precisely for these reasons the book hits home. Don’t be mistaken: stylistically, too, this book is a testament to his mastery." —Bookseller Van Rossum
"Don’t look any further, buy this book!" —Bookseller Hijman Ongerijmd
"The dilemma of the desire for survival set against one’s moral compass brings to mind George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London; Samir’s attempts to make the best of his protracted detention has much in common with the plight of the stateless Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal." —Dutch Foundation for Literature
"In all its tragedy of miscommunication, loss of identity and meaning of life, humiliations and incapacity to truly connect, it is also a very light and humorous book." —Literair Nederland
"A challenging portrait of Dutch hospitality. Absolutely recommended." —The Correspondent
"You can write emails about refugees until you’re blue in the face, but you can also, thanks to the unique power of literature, spend a few hours inside the mind and soul of one of them. By reading this tragicomic masterpiece. It will do you good." —De Limburger
“'The asylum center,' Al Galidi writes, 'is a grave where the time of a few hundred people is buried.' For this grave he has erected a memorable monument, that functions as both a complaint and a mirror. And I, for one, was ashamed of what I saw in it." —Tommy Wieringa, author of Joe Speedboat
"Essential reading" —Trouw
"A stunning novel about the experiences of a refugee in a heartless regime: polder-bureaucracy thick as mud. Al Galidi holds up a mirror to us. A mirror that we should all look into." —Adriaan van Dis
"Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a valuable and rich novel about fear, uncertainty, arbitrariness and hopelessness, written by someone who was, thankfully, able to use his new language as a lifebuoy." —Tzum
"Confrontational, but also humorous, Galidi provides a very complete portrait of what years of waiting in an asylum center can do to you as a human being. This is a book of absolute urgency in a time of humanitarian catastrophe that hopefully raises questions and will bring about change in our current systems. A must-read that you do not want to let go." —Mirjam Burger, Hebban