In 1980s Syria, a young Muslim girl lives a secluded life behind the veil in the vast and perfumed house of her grandparents. Her three aunts - the pious Maryam, the liberal Safaa, and the free-spirited Marwa - raise her with the aid of their ever-devoted blind servant.
Soon the high walls of the family home are no longer able to protect the girl from the social and political chaos outside. Witnessing the ruling dictatorship's bloody campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, she is filled with hatred for the regime and becomes increasingly radical. In the footsteps of her beloved uncle, Bakr, she launches herself into a fight for her religion, her country, and ultimately, for her own future.
Against the backdrop of real-life events, In Praise of Hatred is a stirring, layered story that echoes the violence currently plaguing the Middle East.
"A Balzacian tale full of romance and murder that ranges from Afghanistan to Yemen to Syria." - The New York Times
"Add this one to the growing list of thought-provoking novels about Muslim women caught in the crossfire of politics and personal life." - Booklist
"This beautiful, powerful, and terrifying novel should be read by anyone trying to understand the crisis in the Middle East today." - Library Journal
"That Khalifa has chosen to profile fanaticism from a feminine perspective, rather than the more predictable 'male martyr', is this book's great innovation. It is a courageous endeavour." - The Independent (UK)
"Khaled Khalifa's In Praise of Hatred...is powerfully seductive in its exploration of hate." - Egypt Independent
"Khalifa has now produced a genuinely important novel, even a great novel, the kind of novel that makes us see in patient and exacting detail what the world is really like." - The New Republic
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Rated of 5
Diane P. (Concord, MA)
In Praise of Hatred
If you are willing to suspend clarity of place and time, entering into Khaled Khalifa's dreamscape novel, In Praise of Hatred, immerses the reader in an intimate sense of modern Syria (1980s) through the eyes of a radicalized, young woman. Her home, albeit the home of her relatives, and the city of Aleppo, provide a backdrop for many of the events and characters that inhabit the story.
Vivid, if only occasional, details punctuate Khalifa's metonymous prose and provide the novel's sense of authenticity and place: the barking of wild dogs, the parsley and aubergines needed from a Souk, a charred corpse that suffers an onslaught of unnecessary bullets. Despite the title, the unnamed narrator's hatred emerges as malleable, as she confesses toward the conclusion of the novel, "The hatred which I had defended as the only truth was shattered entirely….My life was a collection of allegories that belonged to other people." Khalifa's prose is poetic; his story is poignant.
Reading this novel against the background of present-day Syria elevated the works importance, even though the author hopes his novel will not be read as a political screed. It is, nonetheless, a painful reminder of the absence of threat with which most of us live.
Rated of 5
Vivian T. (Charleston, WV)
One Strange Read
I found this to be a very difficult read, primarily because I couldn't really connect with any of the characters. I thought the sequence of activity within the story to be a little chaotic, jumping randomly (or it least it seemed random to me) from past to present and past again. I found some of the references too esoteric for understanding. The religious practices were a little too bizarre, and again quite possibly cultural, for me to relate to even though I'm Muslim. I can't say that this was a bad read or even poorly written (or possibly translated) book, it is quite simply one that didn't work for me on a number of levels.
Rated of 5
Darlene C. (Woodstock, IL)
The Power of Oppression
A powerful, stark story of the power of oppression to create and sustain hatred. Against the backdrop of one of Syria's many uprisings, the narrator ( a young teen age girl) struggles with her identity and loyalties. As the country's struggles intensify, the narrator's beliefs solidify until her life is ruled by only one emotion - hatred.
I almost gave up on this book before reaching the halfway point. I found the first half of the book to be scattered and unfocused. It was almost impossible to follow the story or feel it had any coherency. It took some time before I realized this was purposeful on the author's part. The flow of the story closely mirrors the narrator's life as she moves from confusion and unfocused beliefs to a laser focus on hatred as various events and relationships shape her outlook on life. As the narrator becomes more radicalized, the book becomes more focused and coherent.
This was a very difficult book to read on many levels but worth the effort. I believe it would be an excellent book for book clubs as it would provoke much discussion on the content of the book, the current status of women in countries such as Syria, the power of oppression, and the style the writer chose to relate this story. I finished this book with a much greater understanding of the long term and radical effects of oppression, no matter what form it takes.
Rated of 5
Viqui G. (State College, PA)
In Praise of Hatred
In this novel I learned a lot about the conflict in Syria in the 1980's which has unfortunately spilled over into present day revolution and war in Syria today. For this reason I enjoyed reading the novel. However, I feel the female narrator of the story was not a character that was believable. Her attitudes were not realistic for an innocent 17 year old girl.
In general I find that male authors often cannot put themselves in a woman's mind and write a believable story as if they are a woman. I certainly believe this is the case with this novel. Khalifa writes a very descriptive political novel which evokes a time and place that is distinctive, but he is not successful at convincing the reader that the narrator is a real person. In fact most of the female characters were difficult for me to believe. They were often depicted as 2 dimensional and either reprehensible such as Marwan who was chained to her room for loving an inappropriate man, or almost saintlike like Saafa. I also found the story line disjointed and often confusing. The reader learns great details about a certain minor character, but then never hears about the character again. I enjoyed learning about the Syrian political conflict, but the characters in the novel were a disappointment.
Rated of 5
Kimberly H. (Stamford, CT)
a young girl's perspective, written by a male author
In Praise of Hatred was banned in Syria when released in 2006, unsurprisingly. A realistic inside view of religious and political strife, which still continues.
I had some difficulty getting into the book- lots of characters, challenging names (hard to keep track) but overall a way to better understand - or try to understand-a country and culture that us, as Americans, have difficulty comprehending.
Rated of 5
Mary O. (Boston, MA)
The title "in Praise of Hatred" perfectly describes the book and it's characters. Sequestered in a small home, three aunts and the protagonist live in a world of vicious hate. At times disturbing but well drawn out characters reflecting the conflicts in the Muslim world and Middle East. A book people should read to gain insight into that tragic world.
Khaled Khalifa was born in 1964 near Aleppo, Syria. He is the fifth child of a family of thirteen siblings. He studied law at Aleppo University and actively participated in the foundation of Aleph magazine with a group of writers and poets. A few months later, the magazine was closed down by Syrian censorship. Active on the arts scene in Damascus where he lives, Khalifa is a writer of screenplays for television and cinema. In Praise of Hatred is his third novel and his first available in English.
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