Middle East/North African Lit discussion

Wolf Dreams
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2011cruise book diving(official) > Wolf Dreams(Jan/Feb) 2011

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message 1: by Niledaughter (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
We are here to discuss Wolf Dreams book , by Yasmina Khadra

Enjoy :)


Laurie (LaurieHermann) I am reading this now....It reminds me a little of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"....


message 3: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
Laurie wrote: "I am reading this now....It reminds me a little of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"...."

interesting observation...i have read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, too.

I'm still waiting for my copy of Wolf Dreams to arrive. i was hoping it would have come yesterday, but nope! anyway, as soon as it does, i'll get started.


message 4: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
I *finally* got my copy yesterday!! I will try to start it this weekend.

Besides Laurie, who else has read, is reading, or is planning to read this book for this discussion? i'd just like to get an idea of how many people will participate and when i should start the discussion and for how long we should avoid posting any spoiler comments...


message 5: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bernadettesimpson) | 205 comments Marieke wrote: "Besides Laurie, who else has read, is reading, or is planning to read this book for this discussion? i'd just like to get ..."

I couldn't find a copy of this title...so don't wait for me! :(


message 6: by DubaiReader (new)

DubaiReader | 30 comments If I can fit this in between other reading commitments then this is the one I'll be reading as I have a copy already.
Will post when/if I start :)


message 7: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
Bernadette said, "I couldn't find a copy of this title...so don't wait for me! :( "

oh, maan! :(


message 8: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
DubaiReader wrote: "If I can fit this in between other reading commitments then this is the one I'll be reading as I have a copy already.
Will post when/if I start :)"


i'm still contemplating the stack of books i have to read right away, but i think i'll be starting this next weekend.


message 9: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bernadettesimpson) | 205 comments Marieke wrote: " oh, maan! :("

Yeah, disappointed. But I just finished another book by Khadra and loved it. What beautiful writing!


message 10: by Niledaughter (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
Bernadette wrote: "Marieke wrote: "Besides Laurie, who else has read, is reading, or is planning to read this book for this discussion? i'd just like to get ..."

I couldn't find a copy of this title...so don't wait ..."


His trilogy is available here but this one not :(


Alicatte | 14 comments Marieke wrote: Besides Laurie, who else has read, is reading, or is planning to read this book for this discussion? i'd just like to get ..."
Just finished Memories in the Flesh. I need to read another book from my to-read list, so I'll probably start Wolf Dreams in a week.


message 12: by Niledaughter (last edited Jan 16, 2011 07:03AM) (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
Alicatte ,
what did you think of (Memories in the Flesh) translation , Can you post your opinion about it there ? I read there was criticising.
*****

Good luck reading this one , friends .
Here is an interview with Khadra :
http://blogcritics.org/books/article/...

I really want to read for him !
I liked this quote :

I have had the chance to get maximum benefit from a double culture, Western and Eastern, without ever losing sight of where I come from.


It is so strange that his books that deal with other countries but Algeria are the available ones here !


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Marieke wrote: "Besides Laurie, who else has read, is reading, or is planning to read this book for this discussion? i'd just like to get ..."
I have a copy now also, plan to start it later today. Should be able to get it read in the next couple weeks.


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Page 137, End of Chapter 11. Mild spoilers

Intense look at life through the eyes of a young man, Nafa Walid, in Algeria in the late 1980s, early 1990s -- his struggles, dreams, options (as well of those of most others in the country) all seem to lead to disappointment and disillusion. And the choices of women are even more limited. Seriously depressing, and yet compelling.

I do like the writing and the way the author describes the immediacy of the action. Nafa's choices seem so limited, I have great sympathy for him although I find it irritating that he doesn't want to accept more help from his friend, Dahmane. And I'm curious about the prologue and whether that is actually the ending. How can he possibly survive?


message 15: by DubaiReader (new)

DubaiReader | 30 comments Interesting comment about the prologue possiblty being the ending becaus this is exactly what he did in The Attack.
Haven't got onto Wolf Dreams yet.....


message 16: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
i haven't started either, DR (can i abbreviate?)...i'm a tad behind on some other reading obligations and trying to get caught up. this is actually happy situation because everything i'm "obliged" to read is excellent (IMHO) and i simply can't get enough of it. :D


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Finished! Here is my Goodreads Review.

I enjoyed and appreciated a review by Richard Marcus published in Blog Critics.

Next on my reading list by Khadra is Swallows of Kabul. But first more Algeria.


Alicatte | 14 comments Just finished. A quick read that packs a powerful punch. So many scenes are so vibrantly illustrated that they are still with me. The author would just topple me with an unexpectedly simple sentence of a character's demise. After reading both this book and Memory in the Flesh, I come away with the importance of a man's (woman's too, of course) dignity in his/her culture. If a person does not feel dignity in his environment, he's going to blow.


Laurie (LaurieHermann) Well said, Alicatte....you echo some of my feelings...thank you...


message 20: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
I finished it as well. i didn't like it as much as The Attack: Novel but it might be my fault. i thought it was great until the last 25-30 pages or so and then i got annoyed with it. i will try to reread the end again, though, to see if i feel the same way.

that said, i totally agree with Alicatte's reaction.

i have decent background with modern Algerian history...did anyone have trouble with context at all? all the factions and whatnot?
the way it was written, the reader really didn't need to worry too much about those, actually. i'm just curious to know how readers fared with that aspect of the book.


message 21: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 19, 2011 05:14AM) (new)

MadgeUK I started Wolf Dreams last night and read well into the night. My initial reaction is that though it is very poetic, it is somewhat overwritten. The poetic pudding was IMO overegged. I see that it is translated from the original French (?) and wondered if all the alliteration and other poetic nuances represented the original words or did the translator have too much input? Thoughts anyone?

I find the overall story rather trite, predictable and overly moral.


message 22: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
interesting thoughts, MadgeUK...i think i'll look to see if any criticism of the translation exists.


message 23: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
i'll also look around for some Algerian criticism. the thing that fascinated me while reading this book was having the author's background in mind...much of this story was probably based on his experiences, but from the other side of the coin.

the other interesting thing is that many Algerians believe (and i won't comment on the veracity of this since i am not Algerian) that much of the "terrorism" in the 1990s was created by the government...government agents planted in these neighborhoods as "fanatics" to "wage war" against the government. the actual Islamist "fanatics" were in reality not prone to such violence. when i picked up the book, i was curious to see if that idea would appear anywhere, but i don't think it did. if it did, i was too dense to pick up on it.

still, a very interesting story by a former Army officer. he seems to understand very well the problems of the ordinary people.


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 19, 2011 07:32AM) (new)

MadgeUK I finished the book today and can't say that I agreed with the supposed premise that the experience of Nafa as a downtrodden servant to wealthy people was the reason he became a fundamentalist. Millions of Victorians were downtrodden servants who were enjoined by their society to 'keep their place' and it didn't make fundamentalists of them, quite the contrary, it made them doubt the religion which told them:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate

I also found the 'conversion' scene ridiculous:

'Then the call of the muezzin echoed mine, suddenly soothing my spirit. As if by magic my anguish was appeased, and I was filled with a sensation of deliverance. I was convinced that it was a sign from heaven. God was talking to me through the muezzin. There was no doubt about it. Salvation had knocked on my window.....At the end of the first chapter [of The Conduct of the Prophet], the pages started swimming before my eyes and I fell asleep, It was a deep dreamless sleep with no reverberations. I had just become reconciled with my soul.' (Chapter 6.)

Again, I find the poetic nature of the writing OTT and I wonder if this is a cultural difference? Perhaps Nile daughter can explain it to me. I have heard that Arabic writing is very poetic and perhaps a novel such as this illustrates that? I certainly find the Koran poetic but this novel seems very overblown in its language:

'We skirted the hill and arrived at a little corner of paradise with immaculate roads and pavements as wide as esplanades bordered with tall palm trees. The streets were empty, free from the swarms of impish brats that scour the streets of overcrowded cities. Taciturn villas turned their backs to us, their tall railings silhouetted against the sky, as if they were keen to set themselves apart from the rest of the world, to keep out the rot of a place that was in perpetual decline.'(Chapter 1.)

The alliteration in that paragraph is just too much and I find the scene, like many scenes, over-described. It grates.

It is probably that I am more used to under-emphasised, stiff upper lip English!


message 25: by okyrhoe (last edited Feb 19, 2011 10:08AM) (new)

okyrhoe | 141 comments Hope you don't mind me jumping into the conversation here (since I haven't read this book).
I don't read Arabic, so when I read the works in English, I too sometimes (or often?) feel that the text doesn't "sound right" in translation.
I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a cultural difference, maybe we could say it's a problem of diction, and probably it takes some skill to make the translation come off as "natural".
I know nothing is natural in literature, but when we have a character speaking or thinking, in English we expect a certain "naturalness" to that speech/thought.
This is what bothered me in Memory in the Flesh. The central character/narrator spoke* and thought as if he was reciting poetry. I don't know if the text sounds "natural" in the Arabic original; certainly in English it comes off as pretentious after a while.
So my question is whether in Arabic the reader doesn't mind so much that a narrative is overly poetical, even when it's a character speaking or thinking. Maybe there is even an expectation for that. (In the way that we assume a character in the opera will recite/sing poetically rather than "naturally")
Whereas in other literary cultures we currently expect a more "natural" diction, at least for the genre of "contemporary novel."
Another thing I notice in the Arabic tradition (written and spoken): inanimate objects are often described as if they have a life of their own, eg. "taciturn villas turned their backs to us." Imbuing an object with emotion is a nice touch once in a while, but if it repeated throughout a text it becomes too "artificial" and a distraction.

*If it was a third person omniscient narrator the same poetical qualities would be no problem; but in this particular novel the narrator was in the first person.


message 26: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 19, 2011 08:39PM) (new)

MadgeUK So my question is whether in Arabic the reader doesn't mind so much that a narrative is overly poetical, even when it's a character speaking or thinking. Maybe there is even an expectation for that. (In the way that we assume a character in the opera will recite/sing poetically rather than "naturally")

Thanks Okyroe - you put my thoughts into words nicely!

My final thoughts about the book, poetic interludes or not, was that I found it deeply distasteful and wish I hadn't read it! Medieval is the word I would use to describe the atrocities it details. I do not trust an army general writing about his former enemies to convey any sort of truth and his demonisation of Muslims without corresponding criticism of French army atrocities reeked of propaganda.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/...


message 27: by Niledaughter (last edited Feb 20, 2011 06:31AM) (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
you really made me regret I could not reach this book , I am not reading it but some comments seemed interesting to me!

Alicatte wrote: " After reading both this book and Memory in the Flesh, I come away with the importance of a man's (woman's too, of course) dignity in his/her culture. If a person does not feel dignity in his environment, he's going to blow...."

I loved that !

MadgeUK wrote: " can't say that I agreed with the supposed premise that the experience of Nafa as a downtrodden servant to wealthy people was the reason he became a fundamentalist. Millions of Victorians were downtrodden servants who were enjoined by their society to 'keep their place' and it didn't make fundamentalists of them, quite the contrary, it made them doubt the religion which told them...."

I do not know how he presented it here . true ; being atheist is one of the natural results , but Believe it or not , this is really how it happens in general in our societies (from Morocco to Afghanistan ), the after life can be very tempting as the only prize you can get if you loose faith in your actual life where you are angry at everyone supported the injustice you face , if you are willing to read The Yacoubian Building we can discuss further then how corruption creats Extremism , aside from that point , I can say nothing more about Khadra’s novel . I read the article , but I did not get it , what does it want to reach ? does Khadra defend the regime’s brutality against fundamentalists , or trying to explain how a fundamentalist mentality was created in the first place ? BTW ,I posted an interview with him in my post no 12 and it gave me different reaction .

Referring to your notes about the language , I am not sure how Arabic was reflected in this novel as a language since it was originally written in French – as the majority of Algerian literature – and speaking of Ahlam Mosteghanemi who writes in Arabic ; that is what gave her that popularity, actually her books are very poetic ( for my taste- others adore that). is it a cultural difference? Honestly I am not an expert to answer that (or Okyrhoe's note) , perhaps Marcia (when she is back )or Spencer can answer , for me I feel style differs from an author to anther . was it your first novel for an Arab author ?

This brings me to Okyrhoe’s comment , translation can do very bad job to the original text , it can make us distracted and annoyed , I lately read about how odd some Naguib Mahfouz novels ‘ translations are , even though he is the most known Arab author .


message 28: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
MadgeUK, i kind of understand where you are coming from with your dislike of the book and probably the author, but in some ways, i think you may be proving Khadra right in his contempt for how westerners read his book. It's a bit unfair to try to draw a comparison between Victorian England (a society under a monarchy with a clear class system with corresponding expectations) and 1990s Algeria.

Algerians fought hard for independence from France, achieved it, and then set about establishing a socialist state in which *everybody* got a really good education and were led on with ideas that they would have opportunities in their country. prior to independence, most people in Algeria were denied an education and most people could not read or write. Algeria now has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world and everybody is fully aware of the kleptocracy that they live in. this is a very different situation than Victorian England.

i thought the depiction of Nafa's transition was actually quite believable, albeit tragic. he didn't wake up one day as a terrorist. he had lost his hope and dignity and sought refuge in a mosque. he did not go to the mosque looking to become a terrorist. and he resisted participating in violence for quite awhile.

I think it was Catherine who linked to this review in an earlier post in this thread. I think this paragraph from the review captures what it is i want to say about people like Nafa who have lost all hope and dignity--in their society, community, and family.

Nafa is happy for the first time in his life. He tells himself he is doing something useful for the community. The taxi he drives was once the property of an arrested freedom fighter, and the money he earns goes towards feeding the family of the jailed person. The salary he draws is sufficient to bring food into the house for his family, and finally prove to his father that he is not the wastrel he always took him for.

i try to take my western glasses off when i read books like this. i am not going to be the one to judge it truthful or not. i'd rather have Algerians tell me if it comes across as realistic. also, i don't think Khadra ever referred to anyone as a terrorist in the book and as he said in one of those interviews/articles, it's westerners who see only terrorism. i think what he is really trying to write about is the loss of hope and dignity and the idea that people need to feel productive in their lives.

i do indeed think that Khadra is controversial and i'm keen to find out how Algerians react to him and his writing. i'm going to keep searching, but in my first attempt, i found this interesting tidbit:

Thus, when Khadra revealed that he was a senior military officer who had taken part in combat operations, the news aroused heated speculation among Algerians, for whom the search for a sinister plot is - not without reason - a national pastime. As Khadra reports in L'Imposture des mots (2002), a witty, vituperative response to his critics, some suggested that he was an agent of the Sécurité Militaire, assigned to the task of writing novels - if indeed he was their actual author - in order to whitewash the army's crimes; others claimed that he was an invention of the neocolonial French media, determined as ever to blacken Algeria's reputation. Those who accepted Moulessehoul as the author of Khadra's novels hurled a different set of accusations at him. Some said he was an opportunist who had written under a woman's name in order to win the Prix Femina; others that he had cruelly deceived those who had devoted magazine articles and dissertations to the 'écriture féminine' of Yasmina Khadra. For muckraking French journalists, the disclosure was just another mask.


message 29: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 20, 2011 07:01AM) (new)

MadgeUK I agree that one should take off western spectacles when reading such a book and I did that when I looked at Khadra's demonisation of Muslims. Khadra did not deal with the regime's brutality against the fundamentalists, only with their brutality and yet we know that the French regime committed atrocities, something which is still discussed today. I too was left with the impression that Khadra was 'an invention of the neocolonial French media, determined as ever to blacken Algeria's reputation' which is why I wrote that the book, for me, reeked with propaganda and that I did not trust him.

I also agree that I was wrong to use the analogy of Victorian England but I am still not convinced that it is being poor and downtrodden which is the route to the jihad. If that were the case there would not be so many 'home grown' terrorists (as in 5/7) and would-be terrorists in the UK who come from relatively affluent backgrounds. It is too easy to cite poverty and not look at the role of, say, imams and madrasses in promulgating radical Islam throughout the world, particularly in Pakistan. In other non-Muslim countries disaffected youths turn to crime, not to the wholesale slaughter of their fellow citizens or foreigners, so it seems to me that religious teaching must be part of the problem. There have always been unjust Islamic societies, but turning to jihadic fundamentalism has only recently become the answer.

BTW I do not come to this reading with stereotypical western specs - I have a number of close Muslim friends, from Africa and Asia, and have read about and discussed their religion with them over a number of years. They worry about the radicalisation of their children by local imams who have often been trained in overseas madrasses, and about the radicalised university departments they might encounter later in their lives. Our prisons and youth services have decided to run Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for the fairly large number of radicalised Muslim would-be terrorists, such is the scale of our 'home grown' problem.

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/...

http://www.icsr.info/publications/pap...


message 30: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
i wasn't wild about the book either, actually, for some of the same reasons as yourself, MadgeUK...but it is believable to me that what happened to Nafa happens to others. i think the book would have been unwieldy if he had tried to include French history--the story is about 1990s Algeria, not 1950s/60s.

at the same time, i think that in the way he wrote the book, he is likely conveniently ignoring an inconvenient truth for himself--like you said, the Army's own complicity in the mass murder of Algerians. but maybe that is a different book (that Khadra won't write)? this story was from the perspective of Nafa, not a soldier in the Army.

i agree that being poor and downtrodden is not the only way to militant behavior. but the thing with Algeria is that people (if they are not part of the elite) are poor, but not in the sense they have no money--many Algerians are well-educated and have jobs, but they do not make enough money to leave home, get married, start families, feel truly productive in their lives (for example). they are hamstrung, despite having university degrees. i think relatively few would make the choices or get caught up in the mess that Nafa did, but some could have.

i'm sorry if i'm not being very articulate. the way i am looking at this book is that it is not THE truth, but it could very well be A truth. does that make sense?

generally i thought Nafa's story was convincing until the end...i did not find what happened in the countryside nearly as believable as what came before although the exposure of corruption and violent jealousies within the ranks of the militant religious movement was interesting. because the story fell apart for me at the end, i really did not like this one as much as the other book of his i read: The Sirens of Baghdad: A Novel.

i can definitely see why you are thinking of it as propaganda, but i'm not ready to come to that conclusion myself. i wonder what others think?

what was the main point of it?
was it too one-dimensional?
did aspects come off as caricature?
if this is the first book of his you've read, do you think you would read others?

are there any pious Muslims in our group who would like to weigh in on this question of whether Nafa's story of radicalization and violence is believable? what would you want non-Muslim westerners to get from it? if you would like to do so anonymously, you can message either myself or Nile Daughter and we will post your remarks without your name attached. I realize this is a really sensitive topic.


message 31: by Niledaughter (last edited Feb 21, 2011 01:09AM) (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
I feel way behind for not reading this book ! in general , this is not Khadra’s best book , unfortunately his popular trilogy sets outside Algeria ! I attend to read it if I manage to .
For Arabic reviewing :

What I can tell you that I did not reach any Arabic articles criticizing him of what I read above in English and that was really confusing .

I will include down what I found to be important and related , but first quoting from (MadgeUK)

( Khadra's demonisation of Muslims )

How ? What I read in Arabic that he separated Islam from terrorism , describing terrorism as a western invention ?

(Khadra did not deal with the regime's brutality against the fundamentalists)

I think this is the important point that brought him criticism as Marieke mentioned , specially with Habib Souaidïa’ s book (The Dirty War) that was also published in France (I also read about it in Arabic) .

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26...

I found an article about this book ( I am not sure about its fairness as a whole but I will quote what convinces me):

http://www.algeria-watch.org/farticle...

(It also sheds light on the complex links between terrorism, corruption and a section of the politico-military power. Terrorism appears to be at the same time the means of struggle of the armed islamist groups against the 'system', but also an instrument used by an invisible power, not in order to defend democracy, but to remain in place. Alongside the bloody actions of the islamists, a number of terrorist acts that were attributed to them were in fact the work of this invisible power, whose aim, according to Souaidia was to eliminate its political adversaries.)

And even in this book , social factor alongside corruption feed fundamental violence :

(Islamist violence is also a reality, and it is important to understand its origins or else it will be impossible to find an adequate solution. This factor makes the Algerian situation very different from that of those European countries that have experienced, or continue to experience terrorism. One is on the wrong track in thinking that those who take up weapons in the name of Islam are solely inspired by religious fanaticism. The religious component is obviously important in Algeria, but there is also a deeper social and political motivation to oppose radically a power that they judge to be impious and corrupt. It is this that has created a consensus among the poorest layers of the population, who understand the situation beyond mere appearances )

-A quote from (MadgeUK) :
it seems to me that religious teaching must be part of the problem. There have always been unjust Islamic societies, but turning to jihadic fundamentalism has only recently become the answer.

Sure religious teaching is part of it , but it was never the origin of the phenomena as the quote I posted above , also This needs more study , but as a beginning ; since the 70s , it was corruption in Iran - (note that the Shah was supported by the west)- that lead to Iranian revolution representing one of the most radical Islamic regimes .Nearly in the same time jihadic resistance started against Soviets in Afghanistan , a lot of solders were already from Arab countries and when they got back , they used the same methods (start new schools) to face the local corrupted brutal regimes - who were also supported by the west , that what lead to that the battles of the conflicts got out of our borders and hit other western countries .

You know what ; I think radical Islam violence is a very complex subject to be plainly explained in one item .

BTW , thanks for the pdf file ( I will check it )


Marieke ,
I hope to see these discussion questions lead to a productive discussion :)


message 32: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 21, 2011 03:18AM) (new)

MadgeUK What I read in Arabic that he separated Islam from terrorism , describing terrorism as a western invention?

Those who describe terrorism as a western invention should read some Chinese and Indian history, like Sun Tzu's Art of War. Terrorism (guerrilla warfare) was practiced by those societies long before the west took it up. Although the corruptness of the regime (and torture) was hinted at throughout the novel, the bloodiest acts of violence, disembowelling of babies etc. were reserved for the Muslims. All the main protaganists who partook in the violence were Muslims, and included an Imam.

The religious component is obviously important in Algeria, but there is also a deeper social and political motivation to oppose radically a power that they judge to be impious and corrupt.

I am not defending Western involvement in the corrupt regimes of the Middle East or anywhere else - I am only too aware of British colonial history (and of American political escapades) in this respect. However, there are many 'impious and corrupt' regimes in the world and there have been many throughout history but the people opposing them have not found their solution in persistent, indiscriminate, suicidal acts of violence against innocents. And if we look at other terrorist groups in other religious countries in the world today, priests have not taken to the pulpit to foment that violence, nor are they to be found preaching violence to children in Sunday schools or at universities. IMO it is the involvement of its religious leaders which damns Islamic fundamentalism. The protestations about it being a peaceful religion (the claim of all religions) sound hollow against this fact. Again, my Muslim friends find it very worrying when they go to their mosques and find the Imams not only preaching against the state (which is fair enough) but actually fomenting violence, selling videos extolling jihadic acts in their mosques, encouraging youngsters to go to train as soldiers in Afghanistan, or on how to make bombs etc. One of them became an apostate because of this. The religion must accept some culpability for the actions of its religious leaders in a number of different countries and from a number of different sects.

It is one thing to encourage disaffected people to rebel against governments, it is quite another to promote violence against innocent people. If we take but two examples in modern history, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa perpetrated very few acts of violence against ordinary people and confined its bombing activities to government institutions and private property, ditto the IRA. (There were, of course, exceptions.) Both of those movements cautioned their supporters against violence towards ordinary people, especially women and children. In the 20 years that the IRA were waging war against the British establishment, for instance, there were only 3000 deaths, whereas the twin towers alone accounted for that number. Priests in Northern Ireland were also conspicuous in their promotion of peace and non-violence throughout the conflict. (I am an atheist so am making no claims for Christianity here. just stating a fact.)

As Lenin said about the Russian Revolution against a corrupt regime, 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' and any political struggle involves violence but for religious leaders to actually promote acts of jihad in madrasses, in mosques and in schools is IMO equivalent to shooting the religion itself in the foot, thereby bringing it into disrepute.

Khadra's novel showed an Imam introducing the protaganist and others to jihad so to this extent he was being truthful. My objection is not to the actual events portrayed (distasteful though they were) but to the one-sided nature of the violence as he portrayed it. The Raja family, for instance, were shown to be 'corrupt and impious' but by no means as barbaric as those who eventually killed them. At no time did I get the impression that the government, apart from being corrupt, was committing atrocities too which was, as I understand it, the case. This is why I think Khadra is possibly an agent provocateur, even though I realise that some of the Islamic barbarism he portrayed probably took place.


message 33: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 21, 2011 05:48AM) (new)

MadgeUK It is reports like these that worry those of us in the UK, including my Muslim friends. The UK tube bombings and these planned attacks are not coming from poverty stricken youths from the Middle or Far East, as portrayed in Wolf Dream, they are planned by those attending madrasses and mosques here in the UK:-

http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/hom...

http://www.channel4.com/news/london-b...

They interpret what is happening in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan as an attack on the Ummah and they are responding as Muslims, not just as youths dissatisfied with British politics. If it were just the latter, then they would be organising politically just as my own children and grandchildren have done when they are dissatisfied with government policies. In other words, these 'home grown' bombers have been radicalised by their religion.

But perhaps this is getting too political - sorry about that - I am a very political animal! :).


message 34: by Marieke, Former moderator (last edited Feb 21, 2011 05:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "What I read in Arabic that he separated Islam from terrorism , describing terrorism as a western invention?

Those who describe terrorism as a western invention should read some Chinese and Indian..."


i might be mistaken, but i *think* what Nile Daughter meant was, that westerners see terrorism in Khadra's writing where he was not writing about terrorism. and it sounds like the Arab world may agree with him. Perhaps he would like us to look at it as disaffected people fighting for their rights? to call them terrorists would be to be blaming the victim? i am thinking out loud here...

the period in time that Khadra is writing about is a period when Algerians voted into office an Islamist government only to have the existing government and Army cancel and nullify those results. the people revolted.

Before I forget, MadgeUK, I really want to thank you for being so open and honest in your reaction to the book. But I'm a little bit puzzled why you think that the book promotes violence within a religious framework. i actually read it as quite the opposite message.

and in the same vein, how does the story demonize Muslims? i thought it demonized assholes (excuse my language), but i thought Nafa was actually a very human and sympathetic character for most of the story.

It's interesting that you don't consider the Raja family barbaric...they needed to hold onto their power and control at any cost, including destroying a girl's body after she "accidentally" overdoses on cocaine and could bring scandal to the family. the Raja family, to me, represents everything that is wrong in Algeria. i believe more violence is committed against the people at the hands of those in power like the Raja family (a minority of the population) than the people could ever commit against the government (which includes the elite who perpetuate the system and think they are "too big to fail.")

however, i absolutely agree with your last point:
"At no time did I get the impression that the government, apart from being corrupt, was committing atrocities too which was, as I understand it, the case. This is why I think Khadra is possibly an agent provocateur, even though I realise that some of the Islamic barbarism he portrayed probably took place."

that is my big gripe with the book. :D


message 35: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 21, 2011 01:40PM) (new)

MadgeUK ...westerners see terrorism in Khadra's writing where he was not writing about terrorism. and it sounds like the Arab world may agree with him. Perhaps he would like us to look at it as disaffected people fighting for their rights?

I accept that some Arabs/Muslims may not see the acts of Nafa & Co as terrorism but 'terror' it certainly was. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/terror The IRA used to offer the same excuse, although their violence never got to this level of horror. No civilised person would accept that soldiers had to behave like this whilst fighting for their rights. Indeed, they would be court martialled for such actions - that is what the Geneva Convention is all about. Acts of terror, like those at Guantanamo or Abu Graib, are performed but they are also deplored and punished. I would criticise the 'Terror' of the French Revolution from the same standpoint - the end does not justify these means.

how does the story demonize Muslims? I thought it demonized assholes

The detailed stories of atrocities were all about Muslims, encouraged by their Imams, performing those atrocities.

I didn't find Nafa a sympathetic character at all, I found him vain, very weak and easily led. His obsession with his good looks and minor film star background was partly what led him into disaster - after 'a bit part in a movie' he could not accept the reality which followed - that he did not have the skill to be anything else but a rich man's driver. He thought he 'embodied a nascent legend in all its splendour' and that if he stood in the middle of the street it would be 'lit up by his azure gaze, whilst 'virgins on their balconies were filled with longing at the sight of him.' !! Even in an affluent Western society such a man would have struggled to survive and rightly so. If ancient Greeks had been writing this story they would have put his predictable nemesis down to his hubris!

It's interesting that you don't consider the Raja family barbaric.

Your definition of barbaric must be different to mine. Nothing the Raja's did, as described by the author, equalled the decapitations, disembowelling of infants etc: 'Don't spare the kids or their animals cried Zouebeida [Nafa's lover]...The first axe split their skulls...The screams of the women and children drowned out the howling of the wind....The killers massacred effortlessly and without mercy. Their swords stopped the children's frantic race in its tracks...And Nafa killed, killed, killed...Outside everywhere you looked, bodies lay among the carcases of disembowelled babies. Caught in the whirlwind of cries and fury he had entirely lost his reason.' (Exactly, his reason and his humanity!) Only afterwards did Imam Othmane weep, having encouraged and participated in the horror: '...A war is lost the minute children are massacred'. For which (truthful) statement Nafa shot him!

Nafa's conversion led to him being recruited by an Imam and being drawn into the company of other religious jihadists. There are numerous references to very devout Muslims participating in acts of horror, which I see as promoting violence within a religious framework.

i believe more violence is committed against the people at the hands of those in power like the Raja family (a minority of the population) than the people could ever commit against the government (which includes the elite who perpetuate the system and think they are "too big to fail.")

That may well be true in these tyrannies but the point is that the author does not detail very much of that violence, whereas he spells out in great and sickening detail the violence of the guerillas/terrorists. And I am criticising the book from that p.o.v., as being biased.

I don't think I can discuss this further - I feel sick again after reading the above passages about the terrorisation of a village and its innocents. As I said in my first post here, I wish I had never read this book.:( (Please issue a warning if any other of the books recommended here have such nightmarish horrors in them.)


message 36: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
Thank you madgeUK for answering my questions; I can definitely see it from your perspective as well.

I can't promise that we won't have another book like this but I'll do my best to screen any future books in order to warn about violence.

Are you joining us for any of the other books for this section? I haven't finished them all yet.


message 37: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Thanks Marieke. No, I am not reading any of the other books here, just re-reading Said's Orientalism at the mo.


Alicatte | 14 comments Marieke wrote: "I can't promise that we won't have another book like this but I'll do my best to screen any future books in order to warn about violence. "

I hate to say it, but I've really enjoyed reading this conversation. Both (all) of you have made enlightening points at both ends of the argument. But I don't think that book choices need to be screened for violence and we should be warned. We pick 'em, let's read 'em.


message 39: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 22, 2011 02:47AM) (new)

MadgeUK I didn't mean that they should be screened and therefore discounted Alicatte, just that we should perhaps be warned that they contain a lot of violence. The publisher's blurb on Wolf Dream did not give any indication of this. I wouldn't normally read violent books and as a pensioner I have to be frugal about what books I spend money on.


message 40: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
right--i should have access to pretty much every book we consider so i figure it might be helpful to ask others about levels of violence, look over some reviews, and quickly flip through the books to get an idea. I am sincerely sorry that this particular book caused MadgeUK so much...pain? probably not the right word but you know what i mean.

i hope the intensity of this discussion thread hasn't scared anyone off! i'll repost the discussion questions i had posted above and also ask if anyone else has discussion questions they would like to ask the group...

what was the main point of it?
was it too one-dimensional?
did aspects come off as caricature?
if this is the first book of Khadra's you've read, do you think you would read others?

are there any pious Muslims in our group who would like to weigh in on this question of whether Nafa's story of radicalization and violence is believable? what would you want non-Muslim westerners to get from it? if you would like to do so anonymously, you can message either myself or Nile Daughter and we will post your remarks without your name attached. I realize this is a really sensitive topic.


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments I just started this one yesterday - about 4 chapters in - interesting read.


message 42: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 04, 2011 11:37PM) (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
Sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread , I was very busy with other stuff and I preferred not to go on without actually reading the book . but I read the discussion and it was an open ,provoking and a good one indeed :)

MadgeUK , it was useful knowing your POV , as far as we know next step has no extreme graphical violence descriptions in any of the listed books :)

Alicatte : thanks for the note .
Carly : waiting for your opinion .

N.B
I want to confirm that the book (The Dirty War) that I posted in my message 31 – was discussing the brutality of the army against people / fundamentalists .


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments This book reads so smoothly; it moves along quickly, no empty spaces.

I went through chapter 5 today and a bit more.

Spoiler . . . maybe . . . so don't read past here, if you haven't yet read chapter 5.

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What a bummer he's been hit with - the rich boy has ordered his friend/partner to take away the body of that girl.

And his so called friend, Hamid, beats him up, leaving him to crawl home.

His friend shows up and tells him - get over it! There's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Oh, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments I am not offended by the violence in the book. I expected such and would have surprised if the book was without violence.

I recently read a book by Rawi Hage - same author as Cockroach - what's it called now . . . De Niro's Game . . .

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/97...

It was discussed at HP library, here in TO, in January.

There's usually some there who are offended by bad language and violence, but everyone agreed - it's to be expected in such an atmosphere - you'd expect it and would be surprised.

IMO, if two tough guys are playing pool and one sinks the white ball, he doesn't say 'Oh, Golly!' We know what he says. If a writer makes a character of this guy, his language has to be realistic.


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments I will take note of The Dirty War, Nile Daughter - I might enjoy that. Thanks for noting it.


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments There are few books/movies/stories that I set aside on account of violence or bad language.

If a character's behaviour and dialogue is out of line - for instance too mild for the person he/she is supposed to be, that can turn me off.

But there is one book I will never read after watching the movie and that is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. That movie was done very well, but unfortunately, it really got to me. I am, however, glad I didn't follow my usual rule and read the book first. I never want to see it again and I never want to read the book.

The Far Pavilions . . . the end of that story disturbs me. I know it's realistic, that Sati has been followed through in the history of India, but I don't think I'd want to hear, read, see many stories about it - it's just too much for my mind.

That's not to say I dislike either of those stories - I think they were very well done, both movies.


message 47: by Carly (last edited Mar 03, 2011 05:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments How about The Kite Runner? That's got some pretty violent parts in it. But still, it's a good story. Without the violence, would it be such a good story?

No - what I'm trying to say here is I am not going to vote a book out over violence. But I would not vote for a book where four letter words have no affect other than shock value.

When violence and vulgar language appears in a book, the story's got to justify the reason for it being there. If not, it's not a good book.

Remember one of Al Pacino's movies - Scarface, I think . . . the whole movie was nothing but four letter words over and over. The plot was a good one - yet the over-use of vulgar language made the story seem ludicrous.

Oh, I'm talking too much here - you people will be throwing me out - ha ha! But you wouldn't dare - I might send my boys around after ya'!

LOL!


Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 106 comments I won't say much more till I'm finished this book, Wolf Dreams. And I think I'm going to enjoy my membership at this group.


message 49: by Niledaughter (last edited Mar 04, 2011 11:27AM) (new)

Niledaughter | 2797 comments Mod
Carly wrote: "I will take note of The Dirty War, Nile Daughter - I might enjoy that. Thanks for noting it."

I did not read it myself , and I am not sure if it is available in any other language but French , I read about it in an article discussing the other face of the coin the our book here represent , how the government deal with it , you know there is also a French movie lately was talking somehow in the same area and I want to watch , but I am not sure about it ; Of Gods and Men


BTW
I am glad you like it in here :)


message 50: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
Carly thanks for all your comments. But just to be clear, we won't be voting on books based on violence. I simply offered to facilitate an "early warning system" for readers such as MadgeUK who would like to avoid such books and choose something else instead. Everyone's reading time is valuable and although I am able to read graphic scenes like the ones in wolf dreams, I can certainly appreciate MadgeUK's wish to not accidentally read that level of violence again. We are not going to censor anything at this group but to the best of my ability I am happy to try to provide information to help members make decisions about which books to read. I guess I should get started on that since March is here! :)


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