Japanese Publisher to Print Saddam Novel

A Japanese publisher said Friday his company will be the first in the world to put out a novel said to have been completed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein the day before the U.S. invasion that ended his reign.

The book, to be titled "Akuma No Dance" (Devil's Dance) in Japan, will be published by the Tokyo-based Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. next Friday, said the company's senior editorial official, Koichi Chikaraishi.

CountryWatch: Japan

Jordan last year banned publication of the novel, known there as "Get Out, Damned One," because of political concerns.

The novel revolves around a tribe living on the Euphrates River 1,500 years ago that succeeds in ousting an invading tribe through resistance. It tells the story of a man named Ezekiel who plots to overthrow a town's sheik but is defeated by the sheik's daughter and an Arab warrior.

The story appears to be a metaphor for a Zionist-Christian plot against Arabs and Muslims. Ezekiel is meant to symbolize the Jews.

Chakaraishi said the manuscript was carried out of Iraq by Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad, when she fled to Jordan just before the U.S.-led invasion was launched. Raghad has said previously her father finished the novel on March 18, 2003 — a day before the war began.

Chikaraishi said a first run of 8,000 copies of the 256-page Japanese translation would be printed, and priced at $14.

It would be the first time the book would be published commercially, though a pirated version has been sold in Jordan, Chikaraishi said.

Saddam has been credited with writing three other books: "Zabibah and the King," "The Fortified Citadel" and "Men and a City."

"Zabibah and the King" tells a story of a leader who sacrifices a luxurious life for the sake of his people and has also been sold in Japan.

"The Fortified Citadel" described the rise to power of Saddam's Baath Party.

"Men and a City" is widely viewed as a thinly veiled autobiography, presenting him as powerful and heroic.

Saddam has been jailed under American control at a U.S. military detention complex near Baghdad airport since his December 2003 capture near his hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

He is on trial for the deaths of 148 Shiites and the imprisonment of hundreds of others in a crackdown following an assassination attempt against Saddam in the mainly Shiite town of Dujail in 1982.

The novel was translated by Itsuko Hirata, a prolific journalist who has authored several books on Middle Eastern leaders. Hirata obtained the original Arabic manuscript from one of Saddam's lawyers in April 2005 and got the lawyer's approval to translate it, Chikaraishi said.

It was not immediately known how the proceeds from the translation will be shared between publisher and author.