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Jokes for the Gunmen

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A brilliant collection of fictions in the vein of Roald Dahl, Etgar Keret and Amy Hempel. These are stories of what the world looks like from a child's pure but sometimes vengeful or muddled perspective. These are stories of life in a war zone, life peppered by surreal mistakes, tragic accidents and painful encounters. These are stories of fantasist matadors, lost limbs and voyeuristic dwarfs. This is a collection about sex, death and the all-important skill of making life into a joke. These are unexpected stories by a very fresh voice. These stories are unforgettable.

162 pages, Paperback

First published April 21, 2015

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About the author

Mazen Maarouf

12 books38 followers
Mazen Maarouf is a Palestinian-Icelandic writer, translator and journalist. Born in 1978 to a Palestinian refugee family he lived, studied and worked in Beirut before moving to Iceland. In 2008 he started working for An-Nahar newspaper, as a critic of theatre and literature, and has since written for various Arabic magazines and newspapers, including Al-Hayat (Beirut, London), Assafir, Al-Mustaqbal, Kalimat Cultural Supplement (Beirut), Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed (London), Al-Ayyam (West Bank), Al-Quds-el-Arabi (London), Kika (London), Jasad Magazine (Beirut) and Qantara (Paris).

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5 stars
72 (13%)
4 stars
176 (33%)
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192 (36%)
2 stars
64 (12%)
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16 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 100 reviews
Profile Image for Odai Al-Saeed.
876 reviews2,486 followers
May 4, 2020
من أبدع ما قرأت ...رغم أن القصص القصيرة ليست هواية مفضلة لدي في القراءة بيد أن ما كتبه هنا (مازن معروف) فعل آسر ومتقن وساحر
تختزل هذه القصص القصيرة باستعاراتها المتعددة الألم بروح امتزجت معاناتها بسخرية الاقدار ....هنا تصنع الفكاهة من رحم المعاناة وتصنع الكلمات أروع الحكايا من هوامش الحيوات المتوترة...رائع
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
977 reviews1,220 followers
April 3, 2019
ARC review
[3.5] A collection of stories about fathers, brothers, gunmen, jokes, missing arms, dreams, and, occasionally, bullfighting. Full of absurdity and taking place in a brutal world. In close proximity to armed combat, whilst not an active participant. Many pieces are narrated by boys living in a war zone, based on 1980s Beirut, where the author spent his childhood as the son of Palestinian refugees. (He now lives in Iceland.)

I was reminded of the surreal, dreamlike stories of Soviet Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, and of the combination of brutality and humour in those of contemporary Iraqi-Finnish author Hassan Blasim. (I would recommend Blasim over Maarouf, but there is no reason not to read both, as the books are short, and it is not as if there is a huge amount of contemporary war fiction by Middle Eastern writers. Jokes for the Gunmen is also a début collection.)

As with the small amount of other Arabic fiction I've read, I was startled by the novel metaphors. (In Jokes for the Gunmen many of these involve animals.) These, and a general sense of writing far from the typical English MFA/creative writing-workshopped style, are among the joys of reading translated fiction.

Notes on individual stories:

Jokes for the Gunmen. One of the strongest pieces is the opener. Has short chapters of its own. Liked the narrator's preciousness and anxiety about the pepper plant, which awoke memories of ways I sometimes felt about plants as a child, and shows how people manufacture novel superstitions as a coping tactic when life is unpredictable and precarious. The weirdness, and mixture of real danger and half-aware sadism, that will mark many of the other narratives, is evident here: surely sequelae of the warzone, .

Matador. Liked this one a lot. May be riffing on Don Quixote, via the hapless uncle who dreams of being a matador. Great opening line draws the reader in: "My uncle died three times in the space of one week". The idea of the multiple deaths feels familiar from somewhere else - probably an SFF work. Connection with Spain - which will recur in the last story - implicitly suggests a link with the old Moorish kingdom of Granada and Mathias Énard's concept of the Mediterranean as a cultural zone rather than a divided region.

Gramophone. Bleak absurdity, and scenes which reminded me of accounts of digging out WWII Blitz victims - the presence of the gramophone itself in a bar, as well as the actual bombing, prompts some of that imagery from several decades earlier. This was one of several stories in the collection which includes accounts of disability with a realistic bleakness rarely seen in middle-class British literary fiction. Disability is also commoner in the collection's war zone / post-war setting due to injuries. Jokes for the Gunmen is unafraid to face and talk about a world in which improvements and happy endings are not available for many characters with life-altering injuries, a world where one may hear of treatments without being able to access them, and where carers have a heavy burden with negligible support.

Cinema. I read this story either side of sleep, which fell in accord with its oneiric surrealness. This strange story about a boy sheltering from bombs in a cinema, who then ends up following a cow around, won't click with everyone - but for some reason, in a way I can't articulate, I felt that it worked and I found it quietly, darkly funny.

Biscuits. While I rather enjoyed the bizarre image and anecdote at the heart of the story, this ended up my least-favourite in the collection. I did not like the narrator's gaslighting of his elderly mother, and the way that the narrative never judged this. This is of course a simplistic and moralising view of art, but sometimes things just grate on individual readers. Not everyone will mind it in the same way.

A Joke. In a way, the ur-story of the collection because it includes so many of the motifs found in the others. Its point may be that some situations are so difficult, it's hard to extract fun from them without making things worse as a side-effect.

The Angel of Death. Story made up of another succession of dreamlike images, which here, approach body-horror about the narrator - plus a streak of sadism. Kafka influence at work, surely. (But no insects.) Also very dependent on whether any earlier part of the story hits the target with your sense of humour, or travels wide of the mark.

Other People's Dreams Syndrome. Story of the adult narrator's friend Hossan who is afflicted with being a character in other people's dreams, never having his own dreams. It is adjunct to methods of travel into other minds found in fantasy fiction (e.g. Borrowing in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, or the Troposphere in Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr Y) - but the interesting difference is that this chap has zero control.

Aquarium. Seemed a bit too long while reading, but a few hours later I really appreciate its narrative trajectory, and the dark humour around a sensitive subject, of a sort I can't imagine many English-language authors using nowadays. Has potential to upset people affected by pregnancy loss.

A Portion of Jam. The sequencing of the previous story just before the title of this one made me think about how snickering at this would have seemed de rigueur c.15 years ago, whereas now it might be frowned on. Much of that might be due to my getting older and some different company, but I found myself wishing for a world where people could have either stance freely without considering the other lot wrong. This story, in itself, seems mostly to be about the awkward living situations people are forced into in war zones, and the ways they find to entertain themselves, which may have seemed boring or trivial in other circumstances. As well as a bit of magic-realist oddness.

Curtain. Kind of questionable for using the old trope of a dwarf as a sleazy individual. Generally reminded me of 1970s-90s litfic by male authors, in which voyeurism, and responses to it, seemed a common theme.

Juan and Ausa. Even more so with this one, if I'd read it without context I'd have assumed it was from the 1980s. Spanish village, bull run, semi-mystical ideas about sex, old folk beliefs. Wasn't sure if all features of the story really coexisted at the same point in 20th century Spain: being able to be a political activist, villages where these types of beliefs were widespread, independent women living alone without question and moving to rural areas, and readily accessible motor transport. (The 1970s Transición seems the most likely setting.) Stereotyping Spain isn't something people really talk about in the 21st century, but this reminds me of stuff from the 70s and 80s and before, where Spain was still exoticised by English writers and not quite talked about as a real everyday place. I have to say that I did kind of enjoy the story though, as it's fun to stumble on unexpected slapstick scenes in literary fiction, and I was pleasantly surprised by the way Ausa was described on p.159, and by the conclusion.

I really enjoyed some of these stories, and found a lot to appreciate in the mood of the collection. When reading the first few pieces, I was sure I'd want to give it 4 stars, but some of the later stories didn't click quite enough to retain that rating. (Though I seem to like it more than most posters who've so far read it just because it was on the 2019 Man Booker International longlist. It's a very short book (162 pages with several blank pages inbetween stories) and worth a look if you want to read more Arabic fiction, explore short stories that aren't the same old brittle MFA stuff, or read some surreal and irreverent contemporary writing about war. Content aside, if I were ranking the 2019 MBI longlist by cover design, this would be my winner.

I requested, and received, a PDF advance review copy from the publisher, Granta Books. Thank you.
Profile Image for Trudie.
544 reviews585 followers
March 27, 2019
The old man didn't look anxious. He stepped out into the motorway between speeding cars, he took his white hat and wrapped it around his fist like a boxing glove. He didn't want to punch the cars, just to touch them. The speeding cars tried to avoid him, but they didn't succeed. Every car he touched turned into a giant biscuit. Since they were going so fast, they over-turned and crumbled into pieces by the side of the road. The scene was riveting to watch as the first three groups of cars passed. Soon there was a giant pile of biscuit crumbs on the side of the road

Hey, man, imagine you're the piece of shit that's stuck to the boot of a gunman during what appears to be an attack. While his comrades move forward according to the plan, the gunman stops and tries to get you off his boot because the smell's interfering with his concentration. He rubs you against the pavement and starts cursing the guts that produced you.

* Man who can't smile
* Elderly dwarf voyeur
* Jam in a lightbulb (or something I was confused here)
* Blood clot kept in an Aquarium

I think this should provide you with all the information required to decide if this is for you.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,304 followers
March 13, 2019
Your story has to be convincing, enjoyable and very short, and it has to make people laugh. Not like this story, for example.

Book 4/13 for me from the 2019 Man Booker International longlist

and the first I've read solely because of its inclusion on that list, and it did slightly lead me to question why various other excellent books have been left off.

It is a collection of short stories, mostly set in a warzone, unnamed but one assumes based on Beirut, with a black-humour absurdist flavour.

The title story - much the longest in the collection - is narrated by a boy who tells us:

At school the kids competed with each other by telling stories about how their fathers beat them. These stories illustrated the power each father had in his household. Power was the most important subject, as far as we were concerned, during the war.

Unfortunately his own father is picked on my the gunmen in the community, and as a result passive at home.

He ends up self-harming on the way to school, not because of any psychological issues but purely for street-cred, claiming his father made the cuts and marks. When that doesn't work he resorts to increasingly bizarre schemes - attempting to sell his twin brothers organs for money (*), hiring some thugs to act as a bodyguard for his father to make him look more important (which only makes his father all the more scared as he doesn't know why he is followed around by a man with a gun) and becomes determined to engineer the loss of his father's eye as he thinks a glass one will make him tougher.

(* an odd approach: personally, I keep my twin alive and intact, in case I should ever need a transplant)

Other surreal stories include a man who turns cars into a giant biscuit - or perhaps that is just a story told by a man to his mother who may or may not have Alzheimer's, or a boy left as the only person in a cinema (presumably the others, who vanished, were killed in an explosion? or perhaps he is dead?), the only other inhabitant of which is a cow.

Others have a less direct warzone setting - although violence or death seems always present.

One story tells of a man who finds himself each night as a bit-player in other people's dreams:

When Hossam dreams, he isn't the main character in the dream. In fact he may not even be a character at all. Every time he’s in a dream it feels like he’s been given a new soul and a new life, but it’s always in a context of marginal importance.

As soon as Hossam hears one of the cast members in the dream shouting something like, ‘Bring the pencil sharpener,’ or, ‘Where’s the dog?’ or, ‘Give the hero the ashtray,’ he gets himself ready, because that’s what Hossam’s going to be – the pencil sharpener, the dog or the ashtray. He’s never been the hero – unless a pencil sharpener, a dog or an ashtray can play the star role in some dream.

Another, Aquarium, has a couple keeping a blood clot, the result of an early-stage miscarriage, as if it were their child. And the story contains an interesting echo of the 2018 shortlisted Frankenstein in Baghdad ,with which the book has certain similarities:

Some of our friends said they wished they could have kept something from their relatives who had died in explosions or traffic accidents or had disappeared in the war. A piece of flesh from their calf, perhaps, or a fingertip, or even a fingernail or an anklebone.

The collection overall makes for an enjoyable read, although it sometimes feels it is trying too hard to be funny / absurd / shocking. And while the point is made about the pressure of life in a warzone, and the need for black humour, many of the other stories feel too short to be properly developed: indeed it suffers from a comparison to Frankenstein in Baghdad in that regard, although that may simply be my preference for the longer novel form over the conventional short-story, and preference for short-stories that do something more radical with the form.

My reaction was also, undoubtedly, shaded by reading this in shadow of the disappointment of some of the books that missed out on the MBI.

2.5 stars: 3 would probably be fairer but emotionally this was a 2 star read.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews650 followers
March 14, 2019
Jokes for the Gunmen is a collection of surreal short stories set mostly in a war zone (unnamed in the book, but the consensus of opinion seems to be Beirut). The stories start out with elements of the absurd (a young man’s desperate attempts to make his father look tougher which include trying to get a him equipped with a glass eye - which would require loss of one of his perfectly good eyes - for reasons explained in the story) and gradually become more and more surreal (a man who apparently stands in the middle of the motorway and turns cars into biscuits by touching them, a boy sharing a bombed cinema with a cow).

There are some striking images across these 12 short stories. Sometimes stories try to tell us truths by showing us the detail, the factual, the real. Other times, and this is definitely the case here, fiction can reveal truth by distorting the world. All these stories are set in recognisable locations (maybe not the specific location, but the type of environment), but within those boundaries the gloves are off (with the exception of the man who changes cars into biscuits) and the surreal imagery shines imaginary lights into dark corners.

And mixed in with this surreal side is the horror of war. In the first story, the young narrator decides to sell his disabled brother’s organs to the gunmen to raise fund for his father’s glass eye. He says, “But I left the matter of the two hearts till the end. For the shock value. Like a shell that hits a bus full of disabled children.”. This in itself is a shocking simile. But then the narrator’s brother is killed when a shell hits the bus in which he is travelling.

I found this book worked any magic it has after reading it. The stories themselves sometimes feel a bit forced and we race through them (the first story is the only one of any appreciable length). But the overall impression they leave is greater than the sum of the parts, I think. For me, I get more out of looking back over this book and the images that linger and mix together than I did during the actual reading. I guess in an ideal world you would get both the reading and the contemplating pleasures, but the actual reading of this book didn’t really grab me and it was only at the end that I realised the overall mixture was building into something worth dwelling on.
84 reviews51 followers
November 10, 2022
Уявіть, що ви зустрічаєте дитину, яка певний час жила у зоні бойових дій (нескладно уявити, правда?)
І ця дитина розказує історії про своє перебування на війні. Деякі деталі в них — правда, деякі — хворобливі вигадки. Ви щиро цій дитині співчуваєте, розуміючи природу її фантазій, її травмованість та захисні реакції. Проте чи будете ви вважати оті розповіді літературою?
А потім дитина дорослішає, але продовжує розповідати. І нові історії за інших обставин здавалися б сюрреалістичними — але ви бачите за ними ту саму травмовану дитину.

Коротше кажучи, суперечливі враження. Можливо, у невдалий час взяла читати.

P. S. Щодо назви — жартів, від яких не болить, ви тут не знайдете.
Profile Image for Nashelito.
105 reviews51 followers
September 7, 2023
Оповідання Мазена Мааруфа для нормальної людини і повинні виглядати дивно, позаяк в них описана ненормальність того, яким стає навколишній світ під час війни. 

"Жарти для озброєних", перекладені з арабської мови Катріною Хаддад, це збірка коротких оповідань, кожне з яких заходить у свідомість читача, наче цьвях у тім'я. 

Я не хотів би знати про наш світ дуже багато речей: ані про хлопчика, котрий мріє "організувати" батькові скляне око, щоб озброєні люди перестали його бити і змушувати розповідати їм жарти, ані про те, що можна хотіти продати свого глухого брата-близнюка бойовикам "на органи", ані про чоловіка, який втратив руки після "прильоту" і вмовляє свого сина віддати йому одну з його рук, ані про сина, котрий переконує матір, що в неї Альцгеймера, розказуючи фантасмагоричні історії про реальність, ані про багаторічне піклування про ненароджену дитину в пробірці, ані про безліч всіх тих божевільних, неможливих, страшних, а вже реальних історій, котрі прямо зараз, в кожну мить трапляються з українцями на війні і окупованих територіях.

Ніхто не хотів би жити в такому ненормальному світі, але мусимо. Бо кожен може померти, але ми повинні старатися вижити, щоби відбудувати зруйновані міста і повернути на їхні вулиці життя.

Оповідання Мазена Мааруфа пронизані специфічним гумором, десь щемким і теплим, а десь і таким, до якого озброєні люди примушують чоловіка, бо в нього щойно від прильоту снаряду в шкільний автобус загинув син.
Profile Image for Razieh mehdizadeh.
370 reviews61 followers
March 5, 2022
شوخی با نظامی ها دو بخش داشت. بخش اول داستان های کوتاه به هم پیوسته ای که راوی یک پسربچه در میانه ی جنگ است- پسربچه ای پر از شرارت و تلخی و ناجوانمردی- انتخاب این راوی و احساسات کودکانه ی غیرقابل انتظارش محشر است. بخش اول بی نهایت لذت بخش بود و از نجایی که از مدت ها پیش با مازن در نیویورک آشنا شده بودم و مشتاق به خواندن کارهایش بود م می خواستم خیلی سریع احوالات پس از خواندن این بخش را برایش بنویسم. چنان به وجد امده بودم... اما قسمت دوم که داستان های مینیمال سورئال و پست مدرن بوند بسیار انتزاعی و تهی از معنا بود و از لذت بخش اول به یکباره خالی شدم.
اما بخش اول سهل و ممتنع و صمیمی و فوق العاده
1. بوته ی فلفل 2.ملخ کوچولو3.بستنی فروشی 4.کارتن 5.پیمان 6. برادر ناشنوایم 7.شوخی با نظامی ها 9.اسب های دریایی 9. پدر ربوده شده ام 10.مکالمه
و پس از این ده بخش که به نظرم عالی بودند داستان های گاوباز-گرامافون- جوک – سینما- بیسکوییت – حمال- سندروم خواب های دیگران- آکواریوم- شخصیت دیگر- ساعت زنگدار- قوطی مربا- پرده- خوان و اوسا راوی یک گاو است.-
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books134 followers
April 7, 2019
Mazen Maarouf is a Palestinian author that grew up as a refugee in Lebanon during the civil war. While these stories aren't autobiographical, they deal with that war in many ways.

It's a diverse short story collection that ranges from absurd to more realistic stories. In length they range from 30 to 4 pages. The longest is the title story, a story which I think is also one of the best in the collection. The war is seen through the eyes of a young boy, as are most of the rest of the stories. It's brutal, and yet understandable view into the life of a boy trying to make sense of a situation that doesn't make sense.

That story is fairly realistic, while Angel of Death is surreal, and reminds me of Kafka. The shorter stories tend to go into more surrealism than the title story. Some of them work very well like in Other People's Dreams Syndrome where a man keeps ending up in other peoples dreams. I'd like to mention two other stories: Matador and Gramophone which I thought were very good.

Over all I enjoyed this collection, and I thought the stories worked well together, even though I did like some more than others. And I'm definitely going to read more of his work in the future.

For those that are interested, there is a short doc on him on youtube that can be found here:
Profile Image for Daria.
425 reviews261 followers
December 21, 2022
збірка дуже дивних оповідань, таких абсурдних, що здається наче реальність поплавилася і прилипла до твоїх очей.
Profile Image for Ward Khobiah.
194 reviews85 followers
November 27, 2022
لطالما كان الأمر محطَّ تساؤل؛ أن هل قراءتي لكتاب معيّن في وقت معيّن هي محض صُدفة؟ إذ لطالما كنتُ أقف أمام اختيارات في أوقات لها كبيرُ الصلة بها، كانت هذه المجموعة القصصية واحدة من هذه الكتب، وتحديدًا فيما يخص القصة الأولى، والثيمة العامة للقصص عامة.

الأطفال، البشاعة، السلاح، التنكيل، التمثيل بأنفسنا والآخرين، هي ثيمات مشتركة تقريبًا فيما يكتب مازن، الخوف والمآزق تصنع لهُ قصصًا تطرح تساؤلات بريئة (كالأطفال) عبثية ومخيفة (كالحياة).

لمازن معروف مصدر خام يستخرج منه، ويرجع إليه في الموضوعات تحديدًا، فيما يخص هذه المجموعة على الأقل، قوامٌ يخلط بين السخرية، الفجأة، والمفارقات المخيفة ونتائجها والتي تُفرْج عمّا هو بهائميّ فينا، بهائمية تنتج الخراب وتمنطقه وأخيرًا تُطبّعه.

ما قد اعتبره مأخذًا متعلق بقراءتي أنا على الأقل هو ما جمع بين كل/ معظم القصص، وهو تكنيك موحّد يمكن للقارئ تقصيه وتوقعه فتبقى بالتالي دهشة القارئ (بعد اجتياز القصص الأوائل) محدودة حول موضوعات القصّ، وجرأته، وجنوحه في كثير من الأحيان.

من القصص التي أحببتها: نُكات للمسلحين، سينما، أكواريوم (أبكتني)، برداية.
Profile Image for flaminia.
374 reviews88 followers
January 24, 2020
qualche giorno fa ho letto un reportage dal kurdistan di bernard-henri lévy che parlava di bambini dagli occhi vuoti, che non sanno più sognare, privati del futuro.
la visione di quei bambini mi ha accompagnato per tutta la lettura di barzellette per miliziani, dove ogni pagina è carica di ferocia e di follia, ma dove i bambini - e anche gli adulti - sognano ancora.
Profile Image for Mairi.
119 reviews15 followers
July 15, 2019
In a book shop far from my home city, whilst buying a few gifts - I asked my husband to pick out a book for me to read. Something short, under 200 pages. Something easily manageable for the trip home too.

He'd said that unlike a lot of nationalities, books by Middle-Eastern authors were sorely under represented. So the two of us set out scouring the fiction shelves for titles. By pure chance, he picked up this one. Palestinian-Icelandic, and born in Beirut. Great! The front cover didn't jump out at me, but I wanted to give it a chance.

I wasn't disappointed! Maarouf's collection of short stories starts 'normal'. A kid in a war-torn area of the world concocts plans to make him (and his father) seem more intimidating so they won't be beaten up. Another story, a modern Midas, tells of mental illness through the lens of a man running up and down the motorway turning everything he touches into biscuits. Frankly it gets more and more surreal, later a couple decide to keep an aborted child in a water tank and invite all the village's children round to celebrate his fictional birthday.

The stories are weird, but wonderful. Charming, and often creepy.

I think its important that any work of art, novels included, makes you feel something, and thats why I'm giving Jokes for the Gunmen 4 stars. I'm genuinely unsure how much I enjoyed the book. Its true, I picked it up to read on the train home and I also finished it on the way home. But it wasn't just a short, throwaway read. It made a difference to my day. The world is now ever so slightly, but irreversibly different.
Profile Image for Софія Радіон.
43 reviews7 followers
November 13, 2022
Той момент,коли тобі складно підібрати слова про що ти читаєш.
Але ти, ніби фізично, відчуваєш мелодійну манеру автора, східний аромат спецій та солодощів (без поняття чого, але я відчувала😅), історії, які такі абсурдні, але водночас такі глибокі, і де немає правильної відповіді.
Profile Image for Simona.
238 reviews22 followers
April 2, 2019
Another short story collection from this year #MBIP2019 and another one for which I feel that the stories, as a collection, are too weak for shortlist. Main thread through them is how to make sense from incomprehensible events. In most of the stories the narrator is child, living a life in a war/conflict zone (we don’t get information about where and when, except in one story) dealing with devastation, violence, desperation ... All stories are permeated with a sense of tragedy through the narrator’s naivety, as well as with irony, bizarre and strange situations. Readable, interesting, peculiar and recommended for fans of black humor.
Profile Image for Gabriele Pallonetto.
117 reviews129 followers
November 1, 2019
Non fatevi trarre in inganno dal titolo.
Questo libro è tutto fuorchè divertente!
"Barzellette per miliziani" è il titolo di una delle brevi storie di questa raccolta, una serie di 14 racconti assurdi, crudi, onirici, poetici, no-sense che sembrano avere più fili conduttori comuni, il tema della perdita, qui declinato mediante l'uso di metafore quali la perdita o la deformazione di parti fisiche del corpo, ed il tema della leggerezza a tutti i costi che viene utilizzato come sedativo agrodolce e/o paraocchi per descrivere l'orrore quotidiano che sono costretti a vivere i protagonisti di queste assurde vicende.
Sono episodi brevissimi quanto spiazzanti che mi hanno ricordato sotto certi aspetti i racconti di Etgar Keret in "Pizzeria Kamikaze" ma organizzati in maniera più organica.
In definitiva un esordio interessante di un autore che intendo sicuramente approfondire in futuro.
Profile Image for Natheer Malkawi.
126 reviews64 followers
July 18, 2016
ليست على قدر اللهفة لقراءتها. هنالك أفكار جميلة، لكن غالبًا ما تمرّ دون استغلالها. في المجموعة شيء مزعج، وهو كثرة الاستعارات والتشبيهات الغريبة، شيء أقرب للاستظراف منه للأصالة؛ يقول مازن معروف مثلًا في قصّة ماتادور: "وعندما تشغّل المكيّف في قوّته القصوى تشعر وكأنّك نملة ابتلعتْ دبوسًا ولم يعد بوسعها الحراك." أو في قصّة نكات للمسلّحين: "أمي التي كان نومها دائمًا ثقيلًا كما لو أنّها برّاد."! ف�� البدء، حين بدأت قراءة المجموعة وطالعتني مثل هذه المجازات الغريبة، قلتُ لعلّ في الأمر تجريب، محاولة للتمرّد على مجازات بورخيس العشرة مثلًا، لكن تكرار الأمر يصير مستفزًا، ويشي بافتعال مقصود لا مردّ له سوى الاختلاف.

لا أعرف لماذا شعرتُ بأنّ في المجموعة خفّة، كانت بحاجة لعناية أكبر، ومراجعات أكثر للقصص، تقديرًا لبعض الأفكار الأصيلة حقًا على أقل تقدير. المجموعة خامة لشيء أفضل، ليس أكثر، ليس أقلّ.
Profile Image for ♡ bruno.
2 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2023
I read this for the first time when I was 16 years old, and decided to try reading it again today at 19. The first time I read it it took me about a week to get through, considering the absurdity was a bit much for 16 year old me. It only took me a few hours today, and this time I was able to grasp a much more intense and deeper understanding of the stories. The brutal sketching of the much more niche reality of this world really hit me harder this time. Some may find this book convoluted or strange, and I do feel like this is a genre you just have to be into in order to actually enjoy it, but I definitely recommend this book to any people that enjoy short stories that aren’t all that sugarcoated and regular.
Profile Image for Marcia.
1,053 reviews109 followers
January 6, 2020
Schrijver, journalist en vertaler Mazen Maarouf werd in Beiroet geboren als zoon van Palestijnse vluchtelingen. Verhalenbundel Grappen voor de schutters is zijn eerste werk dat naar het Nederlands werd vertaald. In deze bundel lezen we bizarre verhalen die zich afspelen in oorlogsgebied. Tijdens een bombardement loopt er bijvoorbeeld een koe door een bioscoop, er is een man die auto’s in biscuit verandert en men moet grappen vertellen aan de militie in ruil voor hun bescherming.
Ik weet eerlijk gezegd niet zo goed wat ik van Grappen voor de schutters moet denken. Soms wist de auteur mij te raken. Af en toe glimlachte ik om vreemde banaliteiten. Meermaals walgde ik om (expliciete) verhalen en/of hun wendingen. Soms ontdekte ik prachtige zinnen in de verhalen, maar toch was het verhaal het dan vaak ‘net niet’. De beloofde humor bleef over het algemeen dan ook uit.
Mijn complete recensie lees je op Boekvinder.be.
Profile Image for طاهر الزهراني.
Author 16 books725 followers
January 6, 2020
قصص تشعر أنها أقرب للنصوص المترجمة، فيها ترميز عال يتنافر مع بساطة السرد والحكاية أحياناً، القارئ بحاجة إلى تركيز شديد من البداية إلى النهاية حتى لا يفلت منه النص فيتداعى ليعيد قراءته من جديد.
هناك موجة أخذت تظهر في المجاميع القصصية التي صدرت مؤخراً؛ تشعر بأثر المترجم على هذه القصص، ليس على مستوى اللغة وحسب بل على مستوى الأجواء، والتصورات أيضاً نصوص لا تشعر معها بصلة سوى بحالة من الدهشة اللحظية المتعلقة بغرابة ما كتب، ثم بعد ذلك لا شيء يبقى.
في المجموعة أعجبني التلميح للصراع، أثر الحرب، دون الحاجة لرفع الصوت بالقضية، هذه المعالجة تليق بالفن كثيرًا.
Profile Image for Sophie Stein.
9 reviews
January 10, 2019
Wrote a full review of this for “Totally Dublin,” but I enjoyed this collection—though tonally monotonous at times, the stories are beautifully written. They’re also surprisingly delicately constructed and dreamlike for a book that traffics so heavily in war and atrocity.
Profile Image for Meonicorn (The Bookish Land).
159 reviews187 followers
January 31, 2022
3.5/5 I read this book as part of the From and About Asia Reading Project.

This is a set of captivating short stories set in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. With a hair of magical realism (weirdly this is the second magical realism short story collection I read this month), people’s lives are disoriented. The characters' minds and bodies are shattered by war, which makes this book dark and atmospheric. The book was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019, and I can see why.

A lot of the stories are told from children’s perspectives. War and brutality confuse them. As they try to learn the rules of the world, their behavior and experiences became extreme. This is most shown in the title story. A boy tried to understand the daily cruelty around him and developed some twisted, surreal view that somehow makes sense. Read my full review on my blog :)

More of my reading life: BookTube // Bookstagram // Twitter
Profile Image for Roy Khadra.
71 reviews12 followers
January 23, 2016
بعيداً عن كلّ تعقيدٍ لغوّي، و بتلك البساطة الزكيّة التي يفتقر إليها معظمُ الدخلاء على الكتابة العربيّة اليوم، يصوّر "مازن معروف" حدوداً لم يتجرّأ الكثيرُ الإقتراب منها. ليس بحاجةٍ إلى مفرداتٍ بليغةٍ ليقودك إلى جوهر المعنى، و لا لمشاهدٍ كربلائيّة ليُشعِرك بمعاناة شخصيّاته. يسلك طريق الأسلوب الأسلس، فبخبرة الكيميائي يمزج خليطه ليخرج بتركيبةٍ تُشعِرُ القارىء بقربه الوثيق من فنّ الكتابة و من ارتباطه بأحداث الرواية. يخبرنا "مازن" بكتابه "نُكات للمسلّحين" مجموعةً من القصص القصيرة التي يتخطّى تأثيرها عدد صغحاتها. فتمْتثِل أمامك الشخصيّات بما تمتلك من عفويّةٍ مواجهةً بصدقيّتها و براءتها كلَّ ما تمثّل الحرب من ذلٍّ و لاإنسانيّة، فلا شيء يقف عائقاً أمام حميميّة أعترافاتها و كشف بعض أسرارها. لشدّة واقعيّة الأبطال، يصعب التصديق أنّهم لم يزوروا الحياة يوماً ليدوّنوا أمساءهم في سجلّات النفوس الرسميّة، و أنّهم من نسج خيال الكاتب. فترى طفلاً ينصب مكيدةً للمسلّحين و يرشقهم بسذاجتهه، فيواجه اسلحتهم بنُكاتٍ، كأنّه أوّل من فهم أنّ الحرب ليست سوى مزاح المجرمين على جثث أحلام الغد.
كلُّ قصّةٍ تلامسُ جرحاً أنسانيّاً مختلفاً: نزف الموت، هواجس الإنسان و أحلامه الغير مكتملة، لعنة الشرف، و حتّى صداع الإنسان الجنسي، دون أيّ تحفّظٍ يشوّه الحقيقة.
أستطيع القول إنّ أكثر القصص التي أثارت اهتمامي هي "سندروم أحلام الآخرين"، فأرى بها استعراضاً جديّاً لما يلامس علم النفس.
يجب القول أنّ لمازن أسلوبٍ شعريٍّ ساخرٍ ملفتٍ. كتابٌ يستحقُّ التقدير. شكراً "مازن معروف" على المتعة التي منحتني إيّاها قراءة هذا الكتاب. ننتظر المزيد --- روي خضرا
Profile Image for Brona's Books.
514 reviews82 followers
September 29, 2019
I wanted to like this collection of short stories more than I did. The cover of Jokes For the Gunmen was eye-catching; the topic interesting, important even. The writing and translation were fine too, but surreal and absurd doesn't always work for me. And in this case, I was left scratching my head too often to claim this book as a successful reading experience.

All the stories cover the common themes of loss and the effects of war, especially on children. Often the only response to such horrific events is to laugh darkly, which is what Maarouf has done in every story. His gallows humour twists and turns between being absurd, bizarre and just plain weird.

His cities are unnamed but obviously situated in a middle eastern war zone. This allows the reader to place the action wherever they imagine. Personally, I pictured Aleppo in Syria, as this was the place that featured most on the news as I was reading through the various short stories.

My favourite story was the first one, the titular story of the collection. It was also probably the longest. It's a perfect example of Maarouf's writing style with cruel twists, bizarre thinking and odd survival techniques.
Full Review here - http://bronasbooks.blogspot.com/2019/...
Profile Image for S P.
422 reviews84 followers
March 27, 2019
Some very evocative images that have, surprisingly, lasted in my mind, even after a few days of drawn-out reading. There are some greatly inventive and imaginative stories that make the collection valuable: Other-People's Dreams Syndrome; Aquarium; Gramophone; and the most complete, titular, story Jokes for the Gunmen. Other stories suffer from feeling fairly forgettable; to me the stories rarely seem to fully stick their landing at the end, often relying on a bit too much of satire or punch-line.
Profile Image for Aisha.
209 reviews34 followers
June 12, 2021
Interesting collection overall. Some weird and surreal stories often told from perspective of young people. It could have been more enjoyable if it was more emotive or more coherent.

It’s tongue in cheek or satirical for the most part. I couldn’t really care about some of the stories. When true emotion or some aspect of what was really going on underneath shone through then it was more effective.

Slim collection and good writing - just overall a middle read I don’t love it or hate it.
Profile Image for Bob Lopez.
771 reviews35 followers
April 9, 2019
Hit or miss collection of stories--some ventured into the strange and surreal and were great and interesting (Aquarium), some ventured into the strange seemingly for strangeness's sake and were not so compelling (Biscuits).

Some selected story synopses and thoughts:
Jokes for the Gunmen--solid story about growing up in a war zone. Like the rest of the wartime stories in this collection, the guerrilla warfare/street fighting is a backdrop rather than a focal point of the narrative, this was a story about a father and his sons, and one in particular playing at adult. The pepper plant, the deaf brother, the "kidnapping" that turns out to be a chance runaway, dad's new life, the laundromat bequeathed to the living son...it felt like big L literary, and I think the story was good enough that it could've been expanded to novel length.

Matador--Meh story about an uncle who dies and is resurrected 3 times. Uncle wants to be a matador, practices on a cow and loses? Did I get that right? It was a quickly forgotten story.

Gramophone--About a dad who is a gramophone operator at a bar, bar gets bombed, dad loses his arms and gramophone. Grows despondent, depressed, basically bed-ridden, asks son to donate an arm, the request is refused. Another, more literary story.

Cinema--Even though this is set during a war or a battle, it's more about the after effects, families locked in a cinema for shelter, a roaming cow. Ventures into the surreal once the bomb goes off. Was he the only survivor? Were there no bodies? A teddy bear full of a never-ending supply of cheese singles? Dude feeds the cow footballs, a satchel, broken china, and it regains its strength...like WTH is this story?

Biscuits--Insane story. Dude makes up stories to convince mom has Alheimer's. Including a random story about a man on the road trying to touch cars and turn them into biscuits. Made me mad.

Aquarium--about a couple that may or not be conceiving. See an OBGYN, not pregnant, removes from the woman's uterus a blood clot...gives it to the couple in a test tube. They name it, keep it in a test tube, then eventually move it to an aquarium. It's a better story than it sounds, honestly.

Curtain--couple has sex in bedroom. Flimsy curtain allows dwarf across the way to see and scream out about it which brings out other names to watch from their balconies. They change curtains, dwarf gets sad. Change the curtain back. "There's someone fucking on the seventh floor. They're fucking just for me. Don't go out on your balconies, you sons of bitches." Weird, funny one, but WTH.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anna Boklys.
24 reviews25 followers
July 19, 2023
Анотація до українського видання "Жартів для озброєних" обіцяє нам "місцями теплий, місцями чорний гумор. Саме одивнення й гумор автор пропонує читачам як опору, щоби витримати в цьому шалі"...

Може, звичайно, мій детектор чорного гумору зламався, але все написане - це не смішно. Це жорстоко, огидно та трагічно.

Оповідання написані добре, й книга видана класно, але те, що там написано - це неприємно, максимально тригерно та місцями провокує до нудоти.

Краще б я цього не бачила ніколи.

Спойлерно, але ось про що деякі з оповідань:
- Оповідання "Жарти для озброєння": син планує батьку вибити око, щоб той став солідніший;
-"Матадор": чоловік хотів стати матадором і душив корів, імітуючи кориду;
-"Грамофон": чоловіку відірвало руки під час гри на грамофоні, й 23 роки він провів у депресії;
- "Жарт": 3 сторінки написані дитиною (?) з нетриманням сечі (в деталях).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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