Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Sirens of Baghdad

Title: The Sirens of Baghdad
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 320
Edition: Hardcover

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


tanabata said...

This sounds really good. Thanks for the review. Another one to add to the wishlist. :)

Literary Feline said...

This does sound good! I haven't read Swallows yet, but I have read The Attack by this author and was quite impressed. I hadn't realized he had a new book out. Thanks for the great review.

Radha said...

Great review there, made me want to pick up the book! Especially the opening paragraph where you describe the war!

Just the other day I was reading about how an American Security agency opened fire on a group of Iraqis. Many war crimes & human rights violations happen inadvertantly, but the impact remains the same: loss of human lives & escalation of hatred!!

Lotus Reads said...

I absolutely love Yasmina Khadra, Chitts and I am so happy to see that he's been so consistent with his writing. I have read "Swallows of Kabul" and "Attack" and this one will also go on my wishlist. Thank you for a wonderful review!

Happy Reader said...

@tanabata ~ Wishlist keeps growing! isn't it :)
@literary feline ~ I've read some rave reviews about 'The Attack' and its on my TBR pile now. Not sure when I can get to it.
@radha ~ Thanks. I agree. The War robbed Iraqis of any peace left and only adds chaos to their lives!

Happy Reader said...

@Lotus ~ Yeah! What more could make a reader happier than reading consistently good novels from their favorite authors!
I think Yasmina is a truly gifted writer. I was completely mesmerized by his writing style! I am planning on reading all his novels now :)

Anonymous said...

loved ur blog...
may i blogroll u if u don't mind??

Happy Reader said...

@dj ~ Thanks for stopping by! You sure can :) You have a wonderful blog too. I'll visit you soon.

karmic said...

Wonderful review of a book (that although a work of fiction, cuts very close to reality.. in fact does appear to be reality).

I am not familiar with the author, but based on your review it does appear to be a good bit of writing.

I think there are no easy answers as to why some turn to hate and some choose to forgive and move on and some are so benumbed that they are neither alive nor dead.

Happy Reader said...

@Sanjay ~ Thank you! I do hope you get a chance to read his books!
I think there are no easy answers as to why some turn to hate and some choose to forgive and move on and some are so benumbed that they are neither alive nor dead. - You said it so well! Wars could play many tricks on one's mind. Sad, But true, the destiny one chooses to follow may not be the one intended.