| Al-irhabi 20
Dar al mada, Beirut, Lebanon & Damascus, Syria 254 pages
Why would a man become a terrorist? How does he face his neighbors, his father, his brothers and sisters? Why is he ready to leave his life behind, for what greater cause? Such are the questions that the intimate recount by Abduallah Thabit answers, straightforwardly, almost candidly.
In the 1970’s, Zahi Al-Jibali is the last born of a family of 9 siblings, son of a traditional modest family, destined to be a shepherd in the south of Saudi Arabia. Convinced by one of his older brothers, he joins a Koranic school, and suffers from the constant frustration of having no time to play ball or to hang out with friends. As an adolescent Zahi changes schools, but is eventually caught up by a religious group that insidiously draws him into its ranks.
In bad terms with his too strict of a father since his young age, Zahi easily pulls away from his family, and finds a new home amongst his friends. Giving him affection, appreciation, and to some extent power, the religious group asks him in exchange to make a clear distinction between good and bad Muslims. Harassing youths seen in unacceptable and immoral situations, or even punishing young men who listen to music in their cars is part of Zahi’s new pass-time. It is not the promise of a godly reward that pulls these religious activists together, nor is it the dream of a lush paradise that pushes them to war. It is fear. The fear of being unrighteous, and of being rejected and punished by God for it.
Nevertheless, Zahi suddenly leaves the group and experiences the true meaning of loneliness, with a family that supports him but does not understand him. Infatuated with poetry, beauty, and knowledge, his path leads him away from his religious friends, and exposes him to their wrath. It is with great surprise, after the 9.11 attack on the Twin Towers, that he recognizes the faces of the people who perpetrated this crime. He could’ve been one of these men.
Terrorist no. 20 is more than a novel. It is also a literary essay and a captivating memoir, somewhere between sociology, anthropology and poetry, told from the deeply intimate and painful point of view of a man from the inside.
The transformation of Zahi’s character is palatable and amazing. It occurs both in the story, and in the literature. The further we go, the higher we rise above descriptive narration, with ideas and thoughts becoming more and more abstract. Poetry, is really what the salvation of this character is about.
French translation sample coming soon.
Terroriste no.20 | Actes Sud, Sindbad | Paris, France | 2010 | translated by: Françoise Neyrod
Gilles Paris, Le Monde, France (02.2010) “Terrorist no.20… is a good example of what could produce a bitter and straightforward Saoudi literature, still not translated enough.”
Tristan Savin, Lire, France (03.2010) “Thabit, who has come a long way, offers us a fascinating story full of wisdom and poetry”
La Croix, France (01.2010) “Going over the story of a thirty year old Saoudi who resembles the 19 terrorists of September 11, the author questions his own story and the djihadists’ motivations.”
Muriel Steinmetz, L’Humanité, France (03.2010) “An apprenticeship novel – of the worse”
Pierre Prier, Le Figaro, France (04.2010) “In this very autobiographic novel, a Saoudi citizen exposes how we could have been the twentieth hijacker.”
Faiza Saleh Ambah, Washington Post, USA, 2006 “I feel very sad,” Thabit said. “I wish they could live a life full of love and art and music. I wish they could regain their humanity. But their lives have been stolen from them and they don’t even know it.”
Pierre Prier, Le Figaro, France (2008): “There is a lot of Abdullah in Zahi, who, like his creator, is reborn as an liberal intelelctual. Abdullah Thabit wants to make an exampe out of him: “This is the novel of a generation, he confirms. I wanted to show how so many Saudis have fallen into terrorism” “.
You can watch an interview by the author on clicking this link.
Other represented titles by this author
Raya has the world rights to this title, except French.
World rights available, except for:
French, previously acquired by Actes Sud, Sindbad, 2009
Norwegian, acquired by No Minuskel (to appear in 2011)