Books to inspire

Tell us about a book that makes you hopeful...

There are in fact quite a lot of books. I don't know if the readers around the world care for books that haven't been translated into one of the major European languages, but as far as I'm concerned, I can say that a book that did spur my hopes at the moment is 'The wounded ego' by the Iraqi writer Selim Matar, who lives in Switzerland.

The book analyzes the Iraqi identity amidst the flood of national and religious identities that have torn apart the country during the 20th century. The author champions an essential Iraqi identy that appears linked to the Mesopotamian territory and culture.

In a country and a time which sees the clash of several universal ideologies, from communism to Arab nationalism and Islamist movements, Selim Matar's voice is important. I commend the reading of this book to every Iraqi and every Arab reader who goes through similar circunstances as those of Iraq.

Tell us about a book that has changed your mind...

The book that fits best this description is 'In the name of identity' by the French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf. I must confess that I have read this book more than once and I have advised all my friends to buy it and to read it. The same is true for Maalouf's book 'Disordered world', which can be considered a second part of 'In the name of identity'.

This work is a powerful reflection to be read from outside the devotions, affiliations and intolerance shaped by identities in our Arab and Muslim region. It offers an important human essence by comparing the experience of different peoples in the world.

Sometimes we take for granted that our experience is specific and unique, but in his book, Amin Maalouf makes us see that the experiences of many peoples do resemble each other and that intolerance and extremism have been a kind of ailment found in the history of many nations throughout the world. What's more, to get rid of them is achieved by listening to the essence of this worldwide experience and adopting a critical sense of thinking and reflection.That for, this is one of my favourite books and I commend everybody to buy it and read it.

Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which he won in 2014 for Frankenstein in Baghdad. He appeared at Hay Festival Segovia on Sunday 22 September 2019.