Amman, Jordan: Renowned Iraqi novelist Fouad al-Tikerly, 81, died of pancreatic cancer at a hospital in Jordan on Monday, said one of his associates.
Al-Tikerly was one of the last surviving of Iraq’s generation of pioneering novelists and rose to fame in the 1970s with the novel “al-Rajea al-Baeed,” Arabic for “The Long Way Back.”
The novel, which was later translated to English, was unique for its time and widely hailed as a brave depiction of the suffering of four generations of an Iraqi family in Baghdad under the various post-monarchy regimes, especially that of Saddam Hussein — one of the only books to criticize the system so directly.
Al-Tikerly’s Iraqi friend Najib Mohieddine said the novelist died of pancreatic cancer.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent condolences to al-Tikerly’s family.
“This is a sorrowful loss to Iraqi culture; his novels, stories and articles have documented the history of our country, and the developments that he witnessed as an author and judge as well a president’s adviser after the tyrant regime was ousted,” he said in a statement.
“We take this opportunity to express our confidence that his name will be etched in bright letters on Iraq’s cultural legacy,” Talabani added.
Al-Tikerly will be buried in Jordan’s capital of Amman on Tuesday, where he has been living for three years, his friend Ihsan Fathi said.
Al-Tikerly graduated with a law degree from Baghdad University in 1949 and worked at the Iraqi Ministry of Justice for 35 years, eventually becoming a judge in 1956 and going on to head Baghdad’s Court of Appeals. He was known for his honesty during his tenure.
In 1964, he went to France, where he attended postgraduate law studies in Paris and later returned in the 1980s to live there for a short time.
In 1983, al-Tikerly resigned from his legal career and devoted himself full time to writing novels. After his wife died, he moved to Tunisia in 1990 and married a Tunisian woman.
In 2000, he was awarded the United Arab Emirates prestigious Owais Prize for Arabic-language novels.
He was an independent with no political affiliation and had no ties with the Baath party or Saddam.
Al-Tikerly is survived by his Tunisian wife and their son and three daughters from his earlier marriage.
Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.