Zabibah and the King (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Saddam's novel adapted to the stage

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - A romantic novel apparently written by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been adapted for the stage and will be performed this week in the Iraqi National Theater's biggest ever production, officials said.  "Zabibah and the King," published over a year ago to rave reviews from the local press, is a tragic tale of a ruler who falls in love with an unhappily married woman. The novel has been adapted by Palestinian-born poet Adeeb Nasir.

"It took me one year to read the epic novel ... but I made it into a play in 15 days," Nasir was quoted as saying in an information pack distributed by the Ministry of Culture ahead of Friday's performance.

The rapturous reception given by Iraqi media to the book and a second novel, "The Fortified Castle," left few in doubt as to who penned the anonymous works. The heroine Zabibah, who separates from her husband but refuses to marry the king, is raped on Jan. 17 -- the same day U.S.-led forces launched the 1991 offensive that drove Iraq out of Kuwait. The king dies after capturing the rapists and avenging Zabibah's honor.


It is not known whether Fabio is on the cover of Saddam's romantic novel.

The critics speak

"Will run longer than CATS! Exactly one day longer! By executive decree!" - Baghdad Statesman

"Of all the great romantic stories, none has contributed more to the holy cause of the violent destruction of the evil Satanic state of America, possibly excepting Coyote Ugly!" - Baghdad Times

"You must own the book. You must see the play. And we're not kidding. You really must. Under penalty of death. So save your ticket stubs." -Baghdad Chronicle

"Never a dull moment. The elegant story, as crafted by the Bard of Baghdad, moves faster than the glorious Republican Guard fleeing outmaneuvering the Satanic allied army." - Baghdad Times-Picayune

"Raises hateful vengeance and boastful swaggering to a level unmatched in the history of romance!" - Baghdad Daily News

"This play stinks" - the late Sadaqqi Abdul


female: none, except brief glimpses of hands as the women fill their water jugs from the well

male: the good king shows his most manly part, in a filmed homage to the Dirk Diggler exposure in Boogie Nights, except that Diggler was much less manly, if you catch our drift

Hollywood responds

It is learned that Zabibah had earlier been optioned as a movie property, and the studio plans to open it on the same day as Attack of the Clones, possibly hoping that some people will be deterred by the long lines for the other film and see Zabibah instead.  Security on the project has been tighter than on the films of Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick, but there is solid information leaking out that it has been converted into a musical extravaganza by the ultimate genius of romantic style, Baz Luhrmann. Cameron Diaz plays Zabibah, Ben Affleck plays wise and saintly King Saddam the Extremely Well-Hung, Pete Postlethwaite plays the evil broccoli-hating rapist, Jor-jebush, and Steve Gutenberg rounds out the cast as the rapist's foolish subordinate, Danq-wail.

"Since we wanted to open in May, we were in too much of a hurry to commission all new songs, so we just got the rights to some great oldies, as Luhrmann did with Moulin Rouge. This time we also got permission to write new lyrics to fit them into the context properly", said an unidentified studio exec. "Although you never see her face, Cammy should get that Oscar she's been dreaming of for her work as Zabibah. We think this will do for her what Moulin Rouge did for Kidman, but I personally believe that the male chorus numbers, featuring the singing and dancing Republican Guard, will steal the show, ala South Pacific."

Some of the musical numbers:

  • The first time ever I saw your hands. (sung by: King Saddam, tune: The first time ever I saw your face)
  • Moustache, moustache man. (sung by: the Republican Guard, tune: Macho Man)

the DVD has not yet been announced


Marketers have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. Sensing an opportunity to offset Pepsi's promotional link to Star Wars, Coke has worked up a full-scale Zabibah campaign. Since the film itself is some eight hours long, it should provide an ideal vehicle to sell vast quantities of soft drinks. Coke has already designed "the mother of all bottles" which will keep a full gallon of Coke cold for the duration of the picture. 

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