Sleeping in the Cherry Field

Azher Jerjis

The novel tells the story of Said, an Iraqi immigrant working as a postman in Oslo, who falls in love with a young woman, Tuna Janssen, who is teaching Norwegian to immigrant foreigners. She helps him develop his language skills and fulfil his dream of writing stories. He even manages to get a job as a columnist in a well-known Norwegian newspaper. However, her death is a shocking and terrible blow. After that, he spends his time writing, in isolation, only meeting his neighbour, Jacob Jondal, an old man who dreams of sleeping in a cherry field. In his final days, he buys a cherry field and leaves instructions that he should be buried there, since he firmly believes that by doing so, he will become a cherry tree, according to an old legend which says that after death, people turn into something suited to the place where they were buried. If buried on a mountain, he would become a rock, if in the desert, a grain of sand, etc. After the death of his kindly neighbour, Said becomes more isolated and cuts himself off from the outside world, until he receives an urgent letter from Baghdad calling him to return there immediately. The female writer of the letter informs him that his father’s remains have been found in a mass grave, so he decides to return to Iraq. Once there, however, he is kidnapped by an armed religious militia, imprisoned in a dark cellar in the Wadi al-Salem cemetery near Najaf and condemned to death. His adventures continue with some surprising and paradoxical twists and turns of the plot.


Dar al-Rafidain


2020 Longlist