A Slap in the Face

Abbas Khider

Translated from German by Simon Pare

Seagull Books

S. Fischer Verlag 2006

A Slap in the Face

In our era of mass migration, much of it driven by war and its aftermath, "A Slap in the Face" could not be more timely. It tells the story of Karim, an Iraqi refugee living in Germany whose right to asylum has been revoked in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s defeat. But Hussein wasn’t the only reason Karim left, and as Abbas Khider unfolds his story, we learn both the secret struggles he faced in his homeland and the battles with prejudice, distrust, poverty, and bureaucracy he has to endure in his attempts to make a new life in Germany. As he erupts in frustration at his caseworker, and finally forces her to listen to his story, we get an account of a contemporary life upended by politics and violence, told with a warmth and humor that, while surprising us, does nothing to lessen the outrages Karim describes.


Khider is a master of the comically grotesque. . . . "A Slap in the Face" is a vivid and often moving portrayal of the prejudice, economic exploitation and simple unfairness facing those seeking to find a European haven from war and persecution . . . Abbas Khider may just be the Michel Houellebecq of Iraqi refugee novelists. —Times Literary Supplement

Abbas Khider's novel "A Slap in the Face" (Seagull Books, 2019) opens with an intense, and at first impression, violent scene. Karim Mensy, an Iraqi refugee, ties up a German immigration official for the sole reason of having an audience to listen to his hidden story. It is a palpably tense introduction which sets the pace for Karim's narrative unfolding against a backdrop of perpetual injustice, discrimination, exploitation and navigating the trajectories for survival. . . . Khider has written a book that is at once crude and sensitive, interspersed with humour that only lasts a few seconds before the reader realises that the elicited smiles are all at the expense of the oppressed, in this case, the refugees. —The New Arab