In 2000, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein published a best-selling romance novel titled “Zabibah and the King”. The novel spawned a twenty-episode TV series and a stage musical.
So what’s the book about?
“The plot is a love story about a powerful ruler of medieval Iraq and a beautiful commoner girl named Zabibah. Zabibah’s husband is a cruel and unloving man who rapes her. The book is set in 7th or 8th century Tikrit, Hussein’s home town. Although the book is on the surface a romance novel, it is (and was intended to be read as) an allegory. The hero is Hussein and Zabibah represents the Iraqi people. The vicious husband is the United States and his rape of Zabibah represents the U.S. invasion of Iraq at the end of the Gulf War.” — Wikipedia
The book was a best-seller in Iraq and is estimated to have sold one million copies. According to the back cover the royalties were to go to “the poor, the orphans, the miserable, the needy, and charities”. Did that actually happen? I’m not sure.
The Iraqi publishers used four paintings by Canadian artist Jonathon Earl Bowser, to illustrate the novel, putting his painting “The Awakening” on the cover. Bowser did not authorize the use of his art and has attempted without success to obtain compensation for copyright infringement.
Is the book still for sale? Yup. You can buy a copy HERE on Amazon.
BONUS FACTS: It was once rumored that the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy film The Dictator (2012) was adapted from the novel.
The CIA believes that Zabibah and the King was written by ghostwriters under the direction of Saddam.