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Celebrate more than 150 years of Canada with 150 books.

Ian Hamilton Recommends

The Demonic Comedy by Paul William Roberts

The Demonic Comedy (1998)


A hilarious and horrific account of three journeys into the dark heart of contemporary Iraq.

Paul William Roberts first visited Iraq during the Arab summit in 1990. He went back in 1991 during the Gulf War. One of the few Western journalists to get into Iraq, he was arrested by soldiers on the outskirts of Baghdad at the height of the Allied attack and witnessed the nightmarish effects of the bombing on the city's civilians and infrastructure. In 1995, he received a surprise invitation to the International Babylon Festival and was able to revisit what little was left of Baghdad.

Roberts ranges from a Hunter Thompson-like gonzo journalism to skilled historical analysis, untangling the complicated history of Iraq and its neighbours, to intrepid interviews, discussing movies and religion with a frightening array of madmen, from Hussein himself, the man "whose mother looked like Anthony Quinn playing Mother Teresa," to Assad Bayoud al-Tamimi, the less-than-benevolent father figure of the Islamic Jihad.

At once chillingly horrifying and hysterically funny, The Demonic Comedy is a unique travel memoir, an eyewitness testament to the horrors of dictatorship and the devastation of war.

Paul William Roberts


Paul William Roberts is the bestselling author of seven books, including A War Against Truth, which was short-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction; The Demonic Comedy, which first appeared as a National Magazine Award-winning article in Saturday Night and Harper’s; and The Palace of Fears, a novel. He is also an award-winning writer and producer for television, and has written for many magazines and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, The Toronto Star, Harper's, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement and The Jordan Times. He has been the recipient of several National Magazine Awards, and has also received the Canadian Author’s Association Award for Fiction. He is considered one of Canada’s top experts on Middle Eastern affairs, and is a scholar of Jewish and Arabic history and religions. In 2005, Paul William Roberts received the inaugural PEN Canada/Paul Kidd Courage Award for excellence and bravery in journalism.