Title: The Sirens of Baghdad
Author: Yasmina Khadra
2003 ~ American Invasion of Iraq. Missiles Dropped. Gunshots Fired. Bombs Exploded. Thick plumes of smoke blanket the sky. It's the end of Saddam's regime. The political repression and the growing insurgency results in hundreds of fatalities. The entire city of Baghdad is burning...
An unnamed young man, the protagonist of the novel, returns to his village Kafr Kafram, as the university of Baghdad shuts down due to the American Invasion. His hopes crushed; his future bleak; his dreams thwarted. His family pride torn apart.
In Kafr Karam, the young man, taciturn by nature, lived on the roof in a remodeled laundry room. He whiles away his time listening to his "tinny radio". The local men meet up at the café to engage themselves in heated arguments about the invasion which may end up in an occasional brawl. However, our young man sticks to his own; He wants no violence, no blood, no fight.
Though Baghdad is going up in flames, the little village of Kafr Karam offers a safe haven to its people. Until one day, When the American troops set foot in their muddy grounds. The village men witness the atrocities of the war first hand. For our young man, a Bedouin, three disturbing events transform his life forever. First, A local village idiot gets killed accidentally by the American troops at a checkpoint. Second, An American missile dropped over a wedding party on the outskirts of the village. But, What pushes him over the edge? When the American troops ransack the young man's home for terrorists and humiliate his father in front of everyone in the family. The young man takes it as an assault on his family honor. In his own words, he says "For Bedouin, honor is no joking matter. An offense must be washed away in blood, which is the sole authorized detergent when it's a question of keeping one's self-respect." and he swears to himself that he should avenge the American troops for their despicable act. He leaves for Baghdad and undertakes several small undercover operations before chosen for the most dangerous mission of all times. Will he accomplish his mission?
The novel offers a chilling look at the life of an ordinary young man who is lured into the world of terrorism and why he chooses to become a martyr. Life altering events happen. But, What makes one choose death over life? The story left me with many questions to ponder over. Like, when people shed blood and lose their dear ones in the name of war, what does it do to them? How does it affect them? And, How do they seek revenge? What lures them into becoming a terrorist or a suicide bomber? Why must anger be washed away with blood and gore? For God's sake, Why wage war? What do you gain after losing thousands of lives?
Yasmina Khadra is a master story teller and I devoured his novel 'The swallows of Kabul'. Here comes his latest work offering a great insight into the Middle eastern culture and the World of Islam. I was so captivated by his writing style that I found it really hard to put down. He narrates the story with such ferocity that it was hard to believe its a work of fiction after all. Highly Recommended!
My Rating: 4/5