Saddam Hussein Wrote A Romantic Novel—And The Reviews Aren't Great

Between smoking cigars, decorating his extravagant palaces and ruling Iraq with an iron fist, it seems that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein also found time to publish at least one work of romantic fiction. 

Zabiba and the King, a 160-page allegorical love story set near Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, Iraq, thousands of years ago—and published in 2000—has now been translated into English.

It tells the tale of an Iraqi king, presumably representing Hussein, and a villager named Zabiba, intended to represent the Iraqi people. 

A synopsis of the book reveals that Zabiba is married to a cruel and unloving husband, designed represent the United States. It alleges that the villager's husband "forces himself upon her against her will," an allusion to the U.S. invasion of Iraq during First Gulf War.

In the book, Zabiba visits the king each night and the pair has long discussions about love, religion and nationalism.

Zabibah_and_the_King Wikimedia Commons

There is still some debate over whether Hussein actually wrote the book himself. However, officials at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did investigate the book for potential insights into the dictator's mindset, according to The New York Times

The CIA also suspected the book had been written by ghostwriters, with Hussein overseeing its production. 

Read more: U.S. Returns Antique Chess Set Owned by Saddam Hussein, Stolen During 2003 Invasion 

The editor responsible for publishing the English verison of the book, identified as Robert Lawrence, is described as an American businessman, who "had the book translated to satisfy his own curiousity."

So far, the book only has a handful of customer reviews on Amazon, with a three-star rating. 

One customer with a verified purchase called the novel a "complete trainwreck of a book," warning potential readers: "If you're going to buy this book, by it as an historical curiousity, not for literary entertainment."

Another simply wrote:"This book was absolutely horrible." 

There was some positive feedback, however, with one customer whose purchase was not verified writing: "Saddam Hussein's romantic fable 'Zabiba and the King' is a fascinating and moving work which provides a unique insight into the psyche of the former Iraqi dictator."

Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on December 13, 2003, in the town of ad-Dawr near Tikrit. The capture came nine months after the toppling of Hussein and his Baath party. 

He was executed three years later for crimes against humanity. In the days leading up to his death, the dictator wrote poetry, including one poem called "Unbind It," widely recognized as his last written work.