Synopsis. Set in 1970’s Baghdad, the Ring of Sand tells the story of a thirty-something Iraqi architect, Hashim, son of a well-respected judge, who lost his mother at a young age. This loss, for which Hashim holds his father to blame, shadows the novel from beginning to end, and the entire story could be taken as an unfolding of its effects, through the unfolding of the particular event (which Hashim will insist on calling a ‘non-event’) that stands at the heart of the novel. On the day of his marriage, and with the marriage rites already complete, Hashim walks off from his wedding party and fails to return. The marriage seems to be off; but for a year and a half, to the scandalised disbelief and exasperation of everyone around him and in contravention of all social norms, Hashim resists the family's efforts to resolve the situation with his bride, Amal.
Things begin to come to a head with the intervention of the bride’s cousin, Salma, who warns him about a powerful and potentially unscrupulous suitor now courting Amal. With the conundrum of Hashim’s indifference to increasing social pressures as backdrop, we watch Hashim’s world swiftly start to unravel, as first his relationship with the only people he trusts—his beloved elderly uncle Ra’uf and aunt Qadiriya—begins to strain, then he becomes the victim of a mysterious road accident, and finally matters at work inexplicably begin to go downhill. As the story moves backwards in time, the deeper springs of Hashim's troubled behaviour and his struggles with his own past come into view. Glimmers of a different interpretation of the past and of a different self-understanding have begun to dawn upon Hashim by the time the novel is nearing its end. But by that time, it may already be too late.
For a short biography of the author, see Banipal's biographical notice here.
A PDF of the full translation is available here. I would welcome any thoughts from omnivorous readers who don't insist on reading their novels in bound copies.