Chess with the Doomsday Machine (Shatranj ba Mashin-e Qiamat) is a novel by Habib Ahmadzadeh (b. 1964) about the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is set in Ahmadzadeh’s native Abadan, a city located on an island near the Persian Gulf. Because of its importance to the Iranian petroleum industry, Abadan was the target of heavy bombardments during the early stages of the conflict. Using an advanced radar system developed in Europe, Iraqi forces were able to hone in on Iranian artillery emplacements almost as soon as they fired. It is the task of the narrator, a young Basiji (volunteer paramilitary) spotter, to locate the radar so it can be destroyed. The novel paints a striking tableau of a city under siege, not only inhabited—as one would expect—by a variety of soldiers, but also by two Armenian priests, a retired oil refinery engineer, and a prostitute and her young daughter. Habib Ahmadzadeh is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, whose military career began when he served as a teenage Basiji and ended after he attained the rank of Captain in the regular army. He has studied theatre arts and is an accomplished scenarist. Ahmadzadeh is also the author of a prize-winning collection of short stories called The War Involved City Stories (Dastan-ha-ye Shahr-e Jangi).
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