Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Translated from the French by John Cullen
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 257 pp., $18.95

I first read about "The Attack" on Moorish Girl's blog. She's a writer and journalist and does a great job of showcasing books and authors from the Middle East and Africa. I always look forward to her every post.

Yasmina Khadra is a pen name for Muhammed Moulessehoul, an ex-soldier from the Algerian army, turned writer. Some of you might remember his first book, an excellent one, titled "The Swallows in Kabul" about the war in Afghanistan.

Here's a brief review of his outstanding new book, "The Attack":

Amin Jawaari is of Arab extraction, but a naturalized Israeli citizen (there are a lot of Israelis of Arab descent - even the three sisters of the current Hamas party leader are Israeli citizens). Amin Jawaari is a very successful surgeon in a hospital in Tel Aviv; he and his wife Sihem (also of Arab descent) are well-respected in the community and live the good life. With his job being all-consuming Amin tends to stay away from politics, but all that changes when one day there is a huge explosion outside his hospital. Apparently a female suicide bomber with explosives strapped to her body entered a fast-food restaurant and detonated the bomb she was carrying leaving at least 19 dead, including 11 schoolchildren celebrating a classmate's birthday. Later in the evening Dr. Jawaari finds out that his wife's body was among the dead, not just that, the injuries on her body seemed consistent with those of a suicide bomber...

Ofcourse, this shocking news changes his life completely. He never realized his lovely and intelligent wife felt this sympathetic to The Cause. He couldn't believe that he knew so little about someone he loved so much!

He gives up his job at the hospital and goes in search of why anyone, but his wife in particular, would be motivated to carry out a suicide attack. Being a non-practising Muslim himself it is very hard for him to understand what drives radicalism. He travels to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jenin and along the way, after meeting a whole cast of interesting characters, he begins to learn something about how not having a land to call your own is humiliating and how humiliation can lead to a lack of self-esteem, which in turn leads to hate. "...there is no worse cataclysm than humiliation; it's an evil beyond measure". Amin never really comes up with a concrete reason why so many young men and women are prepared to become suicide bombers, but one can deduce that since they don't feel worthy in life, they try to aim for a worthy end(martyrdom).

The author has done an excellent job of staying neutral but at the same time, shedding light on the Israel-Palestininan cause, and even if one is not interested in politics, I would beseech you to read it just to revel in the language, the imagery and the masterful way Yasmina Khadra can tell a story.

Another novel with a similar theme is John Updike's new novel titled "Terrorist". This book, too, asks the same question: What makes an Islamic terrorist?

Read a review here


Jude said...

This is really interesting Lotus. I have a particular interest in Arab and African culture and writing so I really enjoyed this.

Suzan Abrams, email: said...

Hi Lotus, I've only just seen this. It's late here. I'll come back and read your post properly tomorrow. Have a great Sunday! Mine is nearly finished.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Jude

Thanks for stopping by. I'm delighted to hear of your interest in Arab and African culture. Do you visit Moorish girl (Laila Lalami)? She showcases the work of a lot of African and Middle-Eastern writers. I am thankful to her for a lot of great book recommendations.

Hi, Suse

Are you guys 12 hours ahead of us? It feels weird that you're about to end your day just when I am starting mine. Thanks so much for visiting and see you tomorrow!

Smoothieshake said...

hey lotus!!! for once we're actually reading the same things! I'm reading Yasmina Khadra's "in the name of god", and next on my list is the swallows of kabul and then the attack. I don't remember how i came across his/her books, but they're a lot different than some of the other things i've read. nice review!:)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi Sruthi!

Oh, it does feel good to have zoomed in on the same author as you! :) I haven't read "In the Name of God" so I would love to know what you think. Oh, and I have often wondered why he feels the need to use a female pseudonym, I think it had something to do with the fact that he needed to keep his writing a secret from the Algerian army.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Bhaswati said...

This book is right up my alley! It seems to tackle the subject with empathy and dispel commonly-held Western notions about suicide bombers. I will order it next month, since I already blew up my book money for this month. Thanks for the great review!

Booklogged said...

I can't wait to read this. I read Swallows of Kabul and loved it. I had not heard that there was a new book out for this author. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

It sounds really good and very current!

Suzan Abrams, email: said...

Yes, Lotus, in KL I'm 12 hours ahead. The Swallows of Kabul turned out to be an international bestseller. You must be so knowledgable on world affairs in general, with all these reviews. I think that goes without saying, actually.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Bhaswati!

It is a good read for sure. I was lucky that the Public library had it in their collection, but had they not, I would have definitely bought myself a copy.

When is your book due out? I'm going to visit your blog later for updates. So nice to see you here.

Hi, booklogged

Yes, it is fairly new but I think the French edition has been out a while. I hope you like the book as much as I did!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Angela!

It's new, it's topical, it's beautifully written and best of all, at 272 pages it's a fairly quick read!

Hi, Susan!

OK, I'll 'fess up - I do love world affairs and yes, I really do love reading books that help explain various world issues. I appreciate you stopping by again,and now that I know KL is 12 hours ahead, it will be very easy for me to tell the time in your city...

David D Jerald said...

Hey Little Flower,
These books look very very interesting. I'm going to read them for sure. You are so good at reviewing them.

Anonymous said...

This sounds so promising Lotus. I have posted it as a book club contendor. Hope you can attend!

lulu said...

hi lotus,
it's so lovely to discover your blog. i miss reading so much - i hardly have any time to read these days. when i lived in new york i started a book club and "the kite runner" was our first book. totally loved it just as you did.
i have bookmarked your blog and wil return regularly.
about your baingan bartha recipe request - will post that on the weekend when i have some more time.

Cassiopeia Rises said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cassiopeia Rises said...

Good Review on the "The Attack". I liked the other books so I am sure this wil be a hit.It is about 7 pm here and I'm tired. I posted some more poetry on my blog today. Maybe some one will come across it. Next I am repeating my review if "Our Lady of The Lost and Found. I re-read the whole last part of the book. Wow how different I feel about the book now.

Suzan Abrams, email: said...

Ok Lotus, and once I get back to London, I'd be 5 hours ahead of you. That seems more realistic all round doesn't it. The fastest moving country in the world with its time span is the South Pacific island called, Kingdom of Tonga. I've been there. The oceans are beautiful.

Lotus Reads said...

Awww, DJ, you do say the nicest things, thanks! I haven't read John Updike's "Terrorist", but I thought it was interesting that it had the same theme as "The Attack"

Hi, Madhuji! :)

So glad to see you here. It would be truly wonderful to make it a book club read and yes, as long it is scheduled for before July 15, I'd be delighted to attend. Thanks!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Lulu!

I was just as happy to have discovered your wonderful food and travel blog. You can bet I will visit often. Oh, yes, the Baingan Bhartha recipe would be most welcome, thank you! I'm planning on making Masala Cheese Omlettes for breakfast tomorrow - no prizes for guessing where I got the idea from! ;)

Hi, Beloved!

I have often wondered if I would feel differently about a book if I were to re-read it. Just haven't had the time to find out! :)

Hi, Suse!

Can't wait for you to return to London - it's so much closer to Toronto than KL! ;) You have travelled to such exotic places. I'd love to know more about the Kingdom of Tonga - sounds fascinating!

Suzan Abrams, email: said...

Hi Lotus, Tonga is still untouched in so ways by the modern world. Lots of Indian men govern the shops and businesses. Tongans are friendly people but sometimes, they stare too much as they're not used to outsiders. Everything is centered in the small main town. All the airline offices, shops, hotels, post office, banks are walking distance from each other.
It would be about 15 hours or so ahead of you in time zone if I am 12 or it could be a little more.
It's very old Colonial. South Pacific Isle feel. Beautiful blowholes, oceans, water everywhere, whale-watching, exquisite pretty cafes where the expatriates to read, write letters, delicous buns, cakes, coffess, very arty, in some ways eccentric.
It's literally an out of this world feeling. Lots of jungle compared to land. Narrow roads, footpaths, if you stay near the jetty like me, then there are numerous boats. Fishing and for the tourists.

Lotus Reads said...

Ahhh, Susan, a vacation in Tonga would be a unique one indeed. Thanks for sharing, I didn't know anything about this island until you mentioned it. Thanks again.

Cassiopeia Rises said...

lotus,these two books are as you can guess, made for me. I will have to read both of them. Your talent is definitely in reviewing. Do you do any writing also? Great as usual.

Bhaswati said...

Lotus, the book should go for printing in July, if all goes well. Please send some virtual clovers my way! :P

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Beloved

No, I don't do any writing, although I should have been doing my homework for my creative writing class (we were supposed to interview an unusual person in an unusual profession and then make up a story about them).

Thank you for your kind words - if I could review books even half as well as you write poetry, I'd be happy!

Bhaswati -

Sending the virtual clovers and a rabbit's foot for good measure, too! :)

Anonymous said...

hi lotus..ive read da book "the attack" but im not sure what excatly is the theme in the novel.. (need it for school)..if u can tell me asap i will really appreaciate itt