Born in Baghdad in 1973, Abbas Khider arrived in Germany in 2000, a journey that was a catalogue of displacement, illegal immigration and frequent incarceration. As a teenager, Khider leafleted for various communist and Islamic opposition parties in Iraq, unaware that his activities were drawing the attentions of Saddam’s regime. He was arrested, tortured, held for two years as an enemy of the state and released to find his chances of attending university in Iraq destroyed by his status as a political detainee. He resolved to leave Iraq for an education, and so his journey began.
As a native of Iraq Khider’s first language is Arabic, but his first novel is, unusually, written in German. The Village Indian, translated into English by Donal McLaughlin, is the story of Rasul Hamid, political prisoner and refugee, and is fuelled by Khider’s own experiences of life as an enemy of the regime in his homeland. It documents Hamid’s various attempts to leave Iraq, tracing his journey across North Africa and Europe, and is in turns both funny and sad, offering credible insight into the life cycle of travel, infiltration, discovery and deportation of the modern refugee.
While The Village Indian is a work of fiction, the world of the refugee it presents is very real, and few people are better acquainted with it than Khider. This novel is, in a way, the end of a journey for Abbas Khider as it represents a highpoint in a literary career forged out of adversity, but, with plans for two new books in the pipeline, The Village Indian is really the beginning for this exciting young writer.
The Village Indian was in the running for the 2013 First Book Award.