First Meeting of the Banipal Book Club

Ali Bader  tobacco keeper

During the first meeting of the Banipal Book Club on 9th January, 2012, Ali Bader’s The Tobacco Keeper was selected for the first discussion group, which will take place in mid-March. The novel’s depiction of Baghdad over the last eighty years as well as its intriguing central character, a Jewish Iraqi musician, provide a gripping read. It should be a fast-paced, action-packed introduction to the Book Club. See below for information about both the author and the novel.


Now that the first title has been selected, we hope to see as many people as possible at our second meeting. The discussion will take place, as usual, in the Library of the Arab British Centre. Date and time have not yet been confirmed so watch the library webpage for more details and email if you want to be included on the Book Club mailing list.

For a taster of the novel, here is a short extract of The Tobacco Keeper, available on the Banipal website, click here to read.


The Author

Ali Bader’s first novel, Papa Sartre, was published in 2001 and celebrated by several prestigious awards. Since then, he has continued to write and receive awards. In addition to eleven novels, he has published works of non-fiction and poetry. He works as a journalist on Middle Eastern Affairs for various Arab newspapers and has also produced several films. Born in Baghdad in 1964, he now lives in Belgium.

The Tobacco Keeper

The Tobacco Keeper narrates the recent history of Baghdad, exploring the reasons behind its current turbulent state through the life of a fictional Jewish Iraqi musician, Kamel Medhat. Expelled from Baghdad to Israel in the 1950s, he returns and is again expelled. In his final return to the city in 2006, he is assassinated. His life-long struggle to integrate into society is vividly portrayed. The US occupation of Baghdad is also depicted through a nameless journst, staying in the city as he researches the musician’s life for a biography. The novel raises questions of dispossession, identity and blame. The Arabic original was longlisted for the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. 

This English edition is published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.

Published Date - 09/01/2012