In praise of hatred
| Madih al-Karahiya
Dar al adab , Beirut , Lebanon , 2008 (2006) , 390 pages
Set in the early 1980’s, “In praise of hatred” is the story of a teen-aged girl, the narrator, living in Aleppo, in her grand-parents’ vast and traditional home. She lives there with her three aunts along with their ever devoted blind servant, and grows under the influence of her very pious aunt Maryam. Aiming for God’s approval, she dresses in black and covers her head with the religious veil. She represses her blooming sensuality, wears bras filled with cardboard, and is laughed at by others at school while she looks with horror to Alaouite or Christian girls who dare reveal their arms and breasts in indecent clothing. As members of the ruling party, all mainly from the same religious community, boast with their uniforms and their weapons at college and in the streets,she grows hating them and by extrapolation, hating all the members of their religious community. Following the footsteps of her beloved uncle Bikr, she enters the Islamic opposing movement, and finds her hatred to be her only source of strength and power in the face of a violent world she feels lost in. She is finally arrested, tortured, and liberated 7 years later. Paradoxically, in jail, she learns the meaning of life and somehow returns to an age of innocence.
Many other characters make the richness of this novel. There is Maryam, the eldest who teaches to her teen-aged niece the taboo of the body; Marwa, her sister, who marries an officer of the ‘Death brigade’, destined to crush the Islamist Brotherhood. There is Safa, yet another aunt, a liberal who used to fully enjoy life, but ends up retired behind her ‘burqa’ after her marriage with Abdallah, a Mujahid of Kandahar and ex-communist fighter touched by the ‘light of God’.
The characters of this novel are alive, very well integrated in a delimited space-time frame. Troubled by their questioning and their obsessions, they seem familiar and close to our own daily preoccupations.
Reuters, Tom Perry | July 2007
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Author Khaled Khalifa tested the limits of freedom of expression in Syria with a novel exploring the government’s battle against Islamist militants in the 1980s.
His “In Praise of Hatred”, published in Beirut, is officially banned in his own country(…)
Describing himself as staunchly secular, Khalifa said the novel is an attack on political ideologies based on religion. “There is fierce, stern and direct criticism of sectarianism which produces the culture of hatred,” he said.
But he fears Syria’s secularism, underpinned by secular government for decades, could be endangered by curbs on freedom of expression. Restrictions eased when President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000. But “for two years there has been a clear retreat”, Khalifa said. Such curbs, he warned, play into the hands of Islamist groups of the type which have flourished in neighboring Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s secular regime (…)
Another of Khalifa’s novels was blocked for four years before it was finally allowed into the bookstores. He blames such bans on the mood of petty bureaucrats rather than senior government officials. But curbing secular writers, he warned, leaves an ideological “vacuum which fundamentalist movements will fill because their influence in the region is huge.”
Other represented titles by this author
The notebooks of the Bohemians | Dafater al-Qurbat – view details
RAYA has the world rights to this title.
World rights are available, except for:
Italian rights were acquired by Bompiani (2011).
Dutch rights were acquired by De Geus (2011).
French rights were acquired by Sindbad, Actes Sud (2011).
Spanish rights were acquired by Lumen (to appear).
English rights were acquired by Transworld (to appear).
Norwegian rights were acquired by Minuskel (to appear).