The logic of terrorism is taken to a virtually ultimate extent in
this bloodcurdling successor to the pseudonymous author's highly
praised novels (The Attack, 2006, etc.).It opens in Beirut, with
its unnamed narrator's emotional condemnation of this polyglot
metropolis corroded by contact with Western values. His
conversations with Dr. Jalal, a renegade Arab critic of jihad
"rehabilitated" as an enemy of the West, circle around the subject
of the narrator's mission - which has brought him to Lebanon from
Baghdad, whence he had moved from his native Bedouin village (Kafr
Karam). The story thus told as an extended flashback embraces his
experiences as the son of a disabled well-digger, a hopeful
university student whose future plans were casualties of the U.S.
invasion of Iraq, and his own "re-education" as a victim of foreign
invasion. Khadra skillfully solicits our identification with him by
creating a persuasively detailed picture of nearly idyllic village
life, then he shreds it. The narrator observes the horrific killing
of a mentally retarded neighbor whose unstable behavior is
misinterpreted by American G.I.s patrolling a highway checkpoint,
learns of a missile strike that decimates a wedding party and
seethes during a violent search that "shames" his father and his
innocent family - and sets him on a vengeful course which is
planned to end in a catastrophe "more awesome" than the events of
9/11. This potent novel's major weakness is its frequent recourse
to redundant discursive religious and political argument. Its
compensatory strength is in what might be called the anecdotal
evidence of injustices and atrocities that motivate its
protagonist's lethal momentum. And when Khadra discloses specific
details of his "mission," the effect strikes like a thunderbolt;
your hands all but turn to stone as you turn the pages.Perhaps the
most frighteningly plausible doomsday scenario yet to appear in
fictional treatments of this seemingly insoluble crisis. And if it
doesn't scare the hell out of you, you're not paying enough
attention. (Kirkus Reviews)
Forced to leave the University of Baghdad when the Americans invade
Iraq, a young man from a small desert village returns home, where
he witnesses three events that transform him. First, American
soldiers at a checkpoint kill the sweet and beloved "village
idiot." Several days later, an American plane bombs a wedding on
the outskirts of the village. And then one night, soldiers looking
for terrorists come to the young man's own home and humiliate his
father in full view of the terrified family. Consumed by the desire
to avenge this unspeakable act, the youth leaves the village for
the city. Baghdad is going up in flames. The young man searches for
a place to stay before being taken in by a radical group and
convincing its members that he is willing to do anything to help
their cause. After proving his mettle by participating in several
attacks, he is sent to Beirut to undertake a super-secret mission
which will take him to London. As the time to board the plane
nears, he struggles to reconcile his mission with his moral
principles. A masterful and chilling look at violence and its
effects on ordinary people, "The Sirens of Baghdad" probes
situations few writers dare examine. Powerfully written like
Khadra's previous novels, it explores the depths of human nature
and shows that, even in the most horrific circumstances, good can
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