Luay Abdul-Ilah’s novel Divine Names is stylised as ‘a modern tale on the possibilities of being’. It is different from the types of works that usually grace our bookshelves because of its content, context, and the author’s style. The story is told by an omniscient narrator in four parts, revealing both the personal struggles and the connected and intertwining lives of the characters. The four parts mean this book would appeal practically to those with limited time for reading, as the parts are like short stories, each with different focuses and journeys. However, they link together and form a compelling tale of human emotion.
The story tells the tale of a group of Iraqi men and women of different ages, living in London, in the 1950s. Despite the setting in London, the novel also considers the complex political situation of Iraq, offering a unique insight into a culture and period of history I am largely unaware of. As a result, the novel reads as a story of universal emotion. The characters spend time navigating their lives in London, while yearning for Iraq. Adul-Ilah develops his strong characters alongside sensory descriptions, providing a vivid and captivating story.
The novel was originally written in Arabic, under the name Comedy of Divine Love. I prefer this original title, however, its change does not alter the narrative or its impact in any way.
Luay Abdul-Ilah is an Iraqi writer, essayist, and translator, residing in London since 1985. He also lectures on Arabic in London, at SOAS and the University of Westminster. Abdul-Ilah has also published four collections of short stories; this is his first novel.
Divine Names is published by Mira Publishing, a publishing house based in Leeds, who are focused on publishing works about contemporary topics with the aim to enrich international literature.
Image Credit: Luay Abdul-Ilah
An interview with the author of Divine Names novel by Valentina Viene for Banipal Magazine: