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.