Linda H. (Glasgow, KY)
In Praise of Hatred
Aleppo native Khaled Khalifa first published the searing, prescient novel In Praise of Hatred in 2006 to great acclaim in much of the Arab world although it was promptly banned in Syria. The recent English translation should be a welcome addition to book club and individual readers, particularly for those who embraced the works of Afghan author Hussein Hosseini. The narrator is an unnamed girl, the youngest in a wealthy family who resides in comfort in her grandparents' home, raised by her three aunts and tended by their blind, male servant. The young woman becomes increasingly involved in the Islamic green fundamentalist movement. Her arrest, torture and lengthy imprisonment are shocking punishments for the seemingly mild protests and distribution of leaflets. The novel is set against the backdrop of the decade of violent clashes between the Syrian government and Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980's culminating with the Hama siege and massacre of upwards of 25,000 citizens. In Praise of Hatred reminds us of Syria's decades long abysmal human rights record with continued kidnappings, torture, executions and use of chemical weapons wreaking havoc and suffering on its civilian population. Khalifa's nameless heroine gains self-awareness and resiliency in her continued struggles for freedom for herself and her country. It is a powerful book to read and share.
Alice S. (East Haven, Ct)
This book was written in a young girl's perspective, and as such she is a second class citizen. Because it is a translation I had a hard time following the story and characters. However, it was interesting to read about the culture of the Middle East and to get some insight into the reasons for the never-ending violence and hatred in that part of the world. It also gives some explanations for the radicalization of otherwise reasonable people.
Shirley D. (Amherst, MA)
IN PRAISE OF HATRED
The best way for me to be informed is to read fiction based on real lives, real events. This is what I gained from In Praise of Hatred. I felt no connection to the characters portrayed but the novel clarified the violence in the Middle East, let me see the hatred of the dictatorship's campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood , witness the changing life of a young secluded Muslim girl as she is tossed into the social and political chaos of the world outside the protection of the family walls. It is a powerful awakening.
Linda W. (Summit, NJ)
Behind the Veil
There are many places in the world where people live behind solid, almost impenetrable walls. We sometimes get a glimpse of a courtyard or inner sanctuary, but rarely can we enter so fully the life that goes on in these sequestered homes. Khaled Khalifa takes us by the hand and leads us into the life of a young Muslim girl living in Syria at a time when most of us had little knowledge of this part of the world.
The coming of age behind the walls of an extended family and behind the veil of Islamic culture is a story worth reading. Although sometimes challenging to follow the hopscotch of time, the text reads more like a journal than a fictional narrative.
Patricia S. (New Canaan, CT)
Hard to get into
I so wanted to love this book, but as I was reading it, I had mixed emotions. I felt frustrated at the lack of translation for all the italicized words (nothing listed in the back of the book), disgusted by the atrocities in the 80's, (which continue to be worse even now) ,uplifted by the descriptive expressions ( "Babies on both sides felt like ripened berries which took some of the sting away from reality"), and gladdened by the characters' reasons for staying alive - from impaled butterflies to a small birthday candle. This plea for tolerance and peace just didn't reach inside me as it should.
Andrea B. (Phoenix, AZ)
The protagonist of this story is a female member of an Islamic sect that stands in opposition to the ruling sect. There are two main themes of this story: the political division between two Islamic sects and her isolation from normal social contact with males in her age group. She is encouraged by her prayer group and members of her family to hate anyone not part of her own sect. She is also taught to hate her body and any physical feelings she may have. She struggles to nurture these twin hates, assuming that hatred gives her life meaning. She works to repress any signs of compassion for anyone in another sect and also to repress any normal sexual feelings.
While many works of fiction are told from a broad historical context and secondarily focused on an individual, this story is told from the individual's perspective with the broader historical setting less defined. An understanding of current and recent events in the Middle East is helpful.
I wanted to read this book in order to understand the title. Was the author going to justify hatred and all its ramifications? The book illustrates the part that hatred plays in their society, in her life, and in sustaining religious and political divisions. The message here is that ultimately hatred does not satisfactorily fulfill an individual and leads to cultural disruption. The timeliness of this book is all the more heart breaking than was perhaps intended, as life in Syria is now more unsettled than ever.
I recommend this book for anyone who would like some understanding of the cultural context of women's place in Middle Eastern societies.
Carolyn V. (Douglass, KS)
In Praise of Hatred
The provocative title and the setting in Syria made me want to read this book. I have read many translated books but this one was tough going. The historical aspects were enlightening and I come away from reading this book realizing how little I understand of this culture. I liked the 2nd half of the book better and felt the author resolved the title well.