Jack Mckeever's Reviews > In Praise of Hatred

In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing

When I read fiction from the Middle East, I often find myself wondering why there's not more of it on the A Level syllabus. This is stated a lot these days, but our world is becoming more divided, with different cultures become more inward-facing, a mirror image of populism in the US and the UK. In those sorts of atmospheres, getting inside other cultures is essential (especially when considering representation in media and approaches to literature). And books like Khaled Khalifa's 'In Praise of Hatred' says far more about modern society than 'Jane Eyre' does.

Famously banned by the Syrian state, it's a 300-page maelstrom told through the lens of an unnamed female protagonist in her mid-teens. It follows her on a journey that sees her indulge in violent extremism, an often hatefully ruthless worldview and eventually, liberation in both body and spirit.

It might sound like a story you've heard several times before; the one about an extremist who realises the error of their ways and repents. But Khalifa's writing is so rich, so thorough, so utterly nuanced in its subject area, that it's the everyday happenings of the book which underpin its genius.

This is a story about a girl from a conservative but incredibly normal neighbourhood in Aleppo, who becomes gripped by hatred and the need for revenge but weaves herself in and out of the complexities of becoming a woman, sexual desire, identity and family, and so takes on a sort of 'coming of age' narrative. But crucially, Khalifa's writing is remarkably sensitive.

He manages to make you feel pity for utterly hateful characters without ever choosing a side. He writes brutal depictions of torture, mass slaughter and religious zeal without muddying the water. And he writes about femininity and homosexuality with the kind of compassion and understanding that you wouldn't expect from most white male authors. And there's the thing; by virtue of coming from a Muslim background, Khalifa has undoubtedly been tarred with a stereotypical brush. But he disproves that beautifully here, and traverses conservative Islam's complex relationship with womanhood sublimely.

It's hardly a pleasant read. But it is an essential one - full of romance, darkness, death, brutality and - in a number of ways - a sense of guidance.

3 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read In Praise of Hatred.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

April 14, 2020 – Started Reading
April 14, 2020 – Shelved
April 22, 2020 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.