On March 1, 2012, Fouad Ajami (USA) wrote a long analysis and review of Khalifa’s In praise of hatred for The New Republic .
Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and co-chairman of the Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
As the book is soon being published in the US, below are a few excerpts of Ajami’s review.
All this may sound fantastic, but Khalifa has no need of magical realism. He invents no extravagant flights of fancy. His novel is a faithful reconstruction of his tormented city. His literary recovery of the Aleppine torments is uncannily accurate. For example: an assassination attempt was made on the life of Hafez al-Assad. The battalions of death readied themselves for revenge. The president of the republic had not been harmed, because a devoted bodyguard had thrown himself over the bomb and saved the tyrant. Nazir, the Alawi officer who had married into “the other sect,” was summoned before the commander of the battalions—an obvious fictional surrogate for Rifaat al-Assad, the ruler’s notorious younger brother
Khalifa’s prison pages are brilliant. Syria’s prisons came with independence and its corruption, as the heroes of yesteryear were sent to perish in them. The two prisons—the desert prison in Palmyra and the Mezze prison on the outskirts of Damascus—begat their own distinct and horrific narratives. A rival of Hafez al-Assad, a fellow Alawi coup-maker, went to prison in 1970 and died there in 1993. A head of state, who was in actuality a Sunni frontman for Assad, was to spend twenty years in prison, until 1992, when he was released on a stretcher and permitted passage to Paris, where he died a few weeks later of cancer. Syrian prison memoirs are plentiful, but Khalifa’s pages are unusually valuable and strong because they describe the women’s prisons.