Thursday, August 16, 2001
Baghdad A novel believed written by Saddam Hussein is set to be transformed into a big-budget stage play, with its story of a popular king who falls in love with a commoner and its allegory for the West's persecution of Iraq.
The daily Al-Iraq said Wednesday that the novel, "Zabibah and the King," will be brought to life on stage because of its "deep meanings symbolizing the love of the homeland and nation."
The paper named an all-star cast of Iraqi actors, poets, composers and directors who will take part in the production, to be overseen by the Ministry of Culture.
The book was published anonymously late last year, but its pointed political references ï¿½ in particular toward the 1991 Gulf War ï¿½ have led to speculation that it was penned by Saddam. Since its release, it has been selling out of Iraqi bookstores.
It wasn't clear when the play would open.
"Zabibah and the King" tells the tale of a king who falls in love with a married woman. The ruler's close relationship to the common people, as symbolized by his love for Zabibah, makes other kings jealous and they plot against him.
Zabibah is killed and raped on Jan. 17 ï¿½ the anniversary of the start of the 1991 Gulf War that forced Iraq to reverse its invasion of Kuwait. No ordinary writer could have made such a reference that date, Iraqi readers say.
Most Iraqis believe that Saddam is the novel's mysterious author. But some say his eldest son, Odai, may have written the book because of its unusually frank sexual passages. Odai is regarded as a womanizer.
U.S. intelligence officials reportedly believe that if the Iraqi leader didn't write the book, he at least closely supervised its production. The CIA is believed to have studied the novel for any insight into Saddam's political thinking.