Set in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk during the 1950s, The Last of the Angels tells the slyly humorous tale of three strikingly different people in one small neighborhood. During a labor strike against the British-run Iraq Petroleum Company, Hameed Nylon becomes a labor organizer and later a revolutionary, like his hero, Mao Tse-Tung. His brother-in-law, the sheep butcher Khidir Musa, travels to the Soviet Union to find his long-lost brothers, and returns home to great acclaim (and personal fortune) in an airship. Meanwhile, a young boy named Burhan Abdullah discovers an old chest in the attic of his family's house that lets him talk to angels. By turns satiric, picaresque, and apocalyptic, The Last of the Angels paints a loving, panoramic, and elegiac portrait of Kirkuk in the final years of Iraq's monarchy. But as the grim reality of modern Iraqi history catches up with the novel's events, we come to learn the depth and complexity of Hameed Nylon, Khidir Musa, and Burhan Abdullah, and al-Azzawi's comic novel becomes a moving tale of growing up in a dangerous world.
Fadhil al-Azzawi was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1940. He is the author of several novels and collections of poetry. William M. Hutchins is the principal translator of Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy (AUC Press, 1989-92), and is the translator of works by a number of other Arab writers, including Tawfiq al-Hakim, Mohammed Khudayyir, and Ibrahim al-Koni.