War fiction that is not the usual racy edge-of-seat thriller but one written with dark humour is what Saad Hossain’s debut fiction “Escape from Baghdad” is all about.
Hossain, a Dhaka native deals with elan the genre of dark humour in the backdrop of a macabre setting like a war-torn Iraq ravaged by American bombing after Saddam Hossain’s death.
Also coming from a country like Bangladesh, where liberalists have been killed recently, Hossain’s view about religion is also slightly different.
The author’s style of writing has a tongue-in-cheek flavour which probably is a statement trying to prove a point to those with dogmatic beliefs.
Coming to the story, the protagonists are entirely different from each other. It is story of three characters, Kinza an illegal arms dealer, who is ready to live by the bullet and use a few to kill those who came in his way.
There is Dagr, a professor of mathematics, who has lost his family during war but still has the uncanny ability to form complex formulas in tense situations.
Then there is Hameed, once Saddam’s chief torturer and now Kinza’s captive.
All three want to escape from Baghdad where the Mahdi Army (religious extremists group) as well as American army are searching for them.
The fourth angle of this rectangular war thriller is provided by US Marine Hoffman a defence personnel by post but a corrupt yet lovable buffoon by nature.
There are two parallel stories running side by side where the trio of Kinza, Dagr and Hameed attempt to escape from Baghdad to Mosul where according to Hameed is a place with secret gold being hidden.
On the other hand, it is Hoffman who is trying to help people escape the prying eyes of Mahdi Army And Americans.
The imagery of Baghdad post devastations has been created excellently by the author who has also shown how America’s efforts to free Iraq from the clutches of Saddam’s dictatorship had created more damage for the ordinary Iraqi civilians.
At the same time, in a humorous yet touching manner, Hossain has depicted the perils of being an American soldier in a war torn Iraq where one loses his sanity, becomes a zombie among bombs, blood and ruins. The dialogues by the character Ancelotti evokes laughs but one can also feel his emptiness.