Mona Yahia

When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad

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In Baghdad, Lina is trying to lead a normal life, but politi keep intruding. Violent government coups are almost annual events and it's difficult for a child to understand what's going on or who to believe. The need for secrecy means Lina cannot tell her best friend that they are just waiting for the right moment to flee. It is the 1960s and Lina is part of the dwindling Jewish community… Mona Yahia was born in Baghdad in 1954 and escaped with her family to Israel in 1970. In 1985 she moved to Germany to study fine arts and has remained there ever since. Winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize for Fiction 2001 'Yahia rolls Baghdad around her tongue, savouring its suks, smells, and sweetmeats (reading her makes one hungry). This is a truly exotic novel, but it's also a coming-of-age work in which the almost imperceptible transformation from childhood to adolescence is saltily observed and never sentimentalised. Yahia's prose courses with insight and wit. Her deftness of touch means that, despite its subject-matter, this novel never becomes a bleak tale of religious persecution, but remains a fresh story about adolescent experience in adversity – with parallels in the most unlikely places.' Anne Karpf, The Guardian 'The novel powerfully conveys the author's outrage, as well as her nostalgia for her native land.' The Times 'Yahia's writing evokes both the sensuality of domestic intimacy…alongside the horror of public hangings…When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad is most politically sophisticated, and also most poignant, when it explores questions of language and identity.' Alev Adil, Times Literary Supplement
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450 printed pages
Original publication


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