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Jokes for the Gunmen

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  175 ratings  ·  30 reviews
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 an ...more
Paperback, UK edition, 162 pages
Published January 3rd 2019 by Portobello Books (first published 2015)
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Average rating 3.41  · 
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 ·  175 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Apr 02, 2019 added it
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2019 International Booker longlist
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 Sov
Mar 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
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 passe ...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
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/>Book
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-mbi, 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 s ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Abbie | ab_reads
Well that was weird... I enjoyed Jokes for the Gunmen, The Aquarium and Other-People’s-Dreams syndrome, but the others were either too bizarre for me or forgettable
Hákon Gunnarsson
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
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
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 narrat ...more
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-lin ...more
Sophie Stein
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Bob Lopez
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brona's Books
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 s
Inger Blennow
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Intressant med svårbegripligt, närmast burleskt inland
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this short story collection was a great surprise! I loved the elements of magic and the bits of hunour against a bleak backdrop of war. I really liked this.
Laia Marqués Pérez
Històries curtes de persones (infants i adults) que viuen en mig de conflictes armats, dures però molt originals i un punt surrealistes.

This is the 12th of the 13 books on the 2019 MBI long list I have read. For me, it falls in the bottom half at 9th place. As Neil says in his review, the whole is better than the individual stories. There are 12 stories in this 162 page book. The first, at around 30 pages, is the longest. It is divided into 10 short sections. The other 11 stories are ten pages or less. A number of the stories take place in a war zone and involve children.

One story that sticks in my mind is Cinema. The narrator is a yo
Sep 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: read-in-2019
I can't rate this book. I won't rate this book. If I rate it based on how I felt reading it, it would be too low. And I'm not qualified to rate it based on how it was written. This is one of the most bizarre books I've ever read, and that's including The Hitch hiker's guide to the galaxy. I think my brain is scarred and marred forever after reading this book, especially the first story about a kid growing up in a war zone. I'm not sure what I felt, it could have been despair, apprehension, anxiety or ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can see that this book has mixed reviews, and I can see how divisive it might be in terms of taste. I really quite enjoyed it. While the stories are hit and miss, the ones that work are excellent. The mix of absurdist humour, and the author does not shy away from portraying how ugly peoples' minds can become - the first story invovles a boy willing to sell off his deaf brother- during extreme circumstances. Amidst this ugliness, he is able to put the war into the background and shine a light o ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Verhalen over je staande houden in oorlogstijd, tegenover een gewelddadige vader of ten opzichte van het beeld van een vader die zich niet meer staande weet te houden. Helaas blijven ze me nauwelijks bij. Behalve die over het “Other-People’s-Dreams-Syndrome”.
Ingibjorg Bjorgvinsdottir
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Funny vivid and very visual.
Arni Snaevarr
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Afar snjallar smásögur.
Book Wormy
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
ManBookerInternational2019 Book 8/13

Short stories bah - enjoyed the title story but the others weren't for me

Full review here soon
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Quirky. Original. As with all short story books, some of the tales are netter than the others, but absolutely no regrets about time spent reading it.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Really fun, disturbing, hilarious, uncomfortable, quick-paced, provocative, immensely readable little stories.
Sahil Jain
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most silently heartbreaking books I've read where the horror of war is heightened by the narration via younger eyes. The absurdist element makes the pain more bearable.
Haïfa Braïki
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Univers parallèle, onirique, particulier. La première de couv est réussie ❤ ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and delicate, tiny sideways-on tales of terrible and strange times
Bjorg Sveins
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brandarar handa byssumönnunum er smásögusafn.

Flestar fjalla sögurnar um stríð séð með augum barns sem þekkir ekkert annað, skilur ekki hvað er í gangi og reynir að sætta sig við lífið eins og það er.

Sögurnar eru með súrrealísku ívafi sem gerir þær beittari fyrir vikið.

Skemmtilegt að lesa, -sorgarsögur.

Xavier Lasauca i Cisa
El Líban és un país fascinant i, alhora, ple de contrastos tant des del punt de vista geopolític com sociocultural i religiós. En aquest context, no és d'estranyar que les històries de Maarouf es moguin entre l'absurditat i el surrealisme. Prosa bella i treballada i excel·lent traducció de Margarida Castells, però pensava descobrir un nou Rafik Schami del segle XXI i no ha estat així.
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The Mookse and th...: 2019 MBI Longlist: Jokes for the Gunmen 15 52 Apr 21, 2019 12:38PM  
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-Mustaqba ...more