The Sirens of Baghdad
By Yasmina Khadra
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385521741, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 25, 2007
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“Yasmina Khadra may well be the most powerful and serious writer in French since his Algerian compatriot Albert Camus.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
The third novel in Yasmina Khadra’s bestselling trilogy about Islamic fundamentalism brings readers into Baghdad.
Forced to leave the University of Baghdad when the Americans invade Iraq, a young man from a small desert village returns home, where he witnesses three events that transform him. First, American soldiers at a checkpoint kill the sweet and beloved “village idiot.” Several days later, an American plane bombs a wedding on the outskirts of the village. And then one night, soldiers looking for terrorists come to the young man’s own home and humiliate his father in full view of the terrified family. Consumed by the desire to avenge this unspeakable act, the youth leaves the village for the city.
Baghdad is going up in flames. The young man searches for a place to stay before being taken in by a radical group and convincing its members that he is willing to do anything to help their cause. After proving his mettle by participating in several attacks, he is sent to Beirut to undertake a super-secret mission that will take him to London. As the time to board the plane nears, he struggles to reconcile his mission with his moral principles.
A masterful and chilling look at violence and its effects on ordinary people, The Sirens of Baghdad probes situations few writers dare examine. Powerfully written like Khadra’s previous novels, it explores the depths of human nature and shows that, even in the most horrific circumstances, good can prevail.
YASMINA KHADRA is the nom de plume of the former Algerian army officer Mohammed Moulessehoul. He is the author of six books published in English, among them The Swallows of Kabul and The Attack, for which he was awarded the Prix des Libraires and was short-listed for the Prix Goncourt, Prix Fémina, and Prix Renaudot. He lives in Aix-en-Provence, France.
“The Sirens of Baghdad earns its place in the collection of ‘must-read’ books on counterinsurgency and counterterror operations. Its gripping descriptions of the world as seen through the eyes of a simple young man deeply centered in culture and tradition provide a lesson on how actions can turn a friend into a very dangerous foe. A lesson that is far too powerful to ignore.”
“Yasmina Khadra brings us deep into the hearts and minds of people living in unspeakable mental anguish.”
–Los Angeles Times
“It would be hard to imagine a more convincing novelistic treatment of terrorism today.”
–The New York Sun
"Yasmina Khadra's work has been compared to that of his Algerian compatriot Albert Camus, and The Sirens of Baghdad has a similar blaze of heat, the same heavy, insoluble questions and the same need to face them down, even to one's death. As the young boy from Kafr Karam decides whether to accept his jihadi mission, the novel builds to a startling and wrenching finish."
--San Francisco Chronicle
“An astonishing novel with overtones of Camus (think of The Fall as well as The Stranger). It’s simply admirable…a magisterial work of fiction.”
“Like all the great storytellers of history, Khadra espouses the contradictions of his characters, who carry in themselves the entirety of the human condition.”
“This major author is establishing himself as one of the consciences of our confused age.”
“The logic of terrorism is taken to a virtually ultimate extent in this bloodcurdling successor to [Khadra’s] highly praised novels…perhaps the most frighteningly plausible doomsday scenario yet to appear in fictional treatments of this seemingly insoluble crisis. And if it doesn’t scare the hell out of you, you’re not paying enough attention.”
"Khadra's latest political thriller set in the Middle East couldn't be more timely. The versatile Khadra brings the reader inside the mind of an unnamed terrorist-to-be. Without apologizing for the carnage caused by either side in the conflict, the author manages to make the thoughts of a suicide bomber accessible to a Western readership...Khadra also manages to inject a note of hope toward the end, without betraying his powerful message of how the occupation of Iraq has brutalized both the Iraqis and the Americans."