Book 44: Saudi Arabia (English) – Wolves of the Crescent Moon = Fikhakh al-ra’ihah (Yousef Al-Mohaimeed)
The young ticket clerk was busy sorting the banknotes into the till according to their denomination. When he heard no answer he raised his head and peered through the round opening in the glass at the man standing in front of him. White hairs twitched on the customer’s chin, his eyes bulged slightly, and a thick mustache covered his upper lip.
Turad hadn’t yet decided where he was going.
Off to another Arabic novel from the opposite end of Dar al-Islam. This nicely written novel begins and ends over one night at the bus station where the protagonist Turad is trying to decide where to escape to. The confusion throughout the book reaches its apogee in the subtly asked question ‘Where is Allah?’ in the sometimes horrific episodes – a breathtaking question to ask in Saudi Arabia. One of the cruelest acts is carried out by a caravan of hajjis, who are supposed to be ritually pure before carrying out the pilgrimage to Mecca.
There is an interesting Arabian take on Van Gogh’s ear-cutting-off from the equally ear-less narrator, who can’t believe the artist did it for a mere WOMAN!!
Despite the grim incidents, this is a very readable, engrossing and insightful inside view from one of the world’s most impenetrable societies. You will probably not be surprised to learn that it was banned in the Kingdom itself. Well worth reading, if you can!
AL-MOHAIMEED, Yousef (1964 – ), Wolves of the Crescent Moon, translated from Arabic by Anthony Calderbank, New York, Penguin, 2007, ISBN 978-0-14-311321-8
(originally published in Arabic in Beirut by Riyadh al-Rayyis, 2003)