Friday, January 14, 2005review.
Hamad's writing, on the other hand, is remarkably - almost unforgivably - limp and lifeless. On page after page of prose, he violates the age-old dictum of "show, don't tell," offering full passages of explanation. No gesture is left unanalyzed. No action is left to stand on its own. Emotions are simply told,
never felt or embodied. There are few suggestions lingering between the lines. Sure, there is a bit of heavy petting and vaguely stated anti-regime, pro-Marxist sympathies. But is this all there is to make Hamad's literary work "explosive"?
I put the so-called blandness down to the english translation which I touched upon here, totally lacking in dimensionality and depth. Its not an amazing literary piece, just includes some insignificant and uninteresting accounts of a vulgur sexual encounter and open confessions of alcohol consumption which is supposed to make it 'explosive', well if you're going by Saudi standards then that wouldn't be too hard. But credit where credit is due, it was an interesting insight into the nature of underground political activity in the 70s.
Da Vinci Code lover's dont even think of this one if your looking for suspense and excitement. Not a single cliffhanger, not a single twist! I'm not even sure if the translator attempted to spice things up or down. What kind of novel was it supposed to be anyway? Certainly not a thriller. I'm sure like most other writers, Hamad's trilogy is a biographical reflection of his past. Apparantly he wanted to get things moving, but since the dust has settled after the storm, I don't think he has set any sort of precedent for other writers in the Gulf. Its just another bit of 'native' writing that feeds to Western idealism quite nicely but has no echoes in the ME at all.
This is a view also shared by a well-respected Saudi academic who I discussed the book with a while back. She was invited to review the book on BBC radio. She refused on the basis that she is not a literary expert so had no authority on which to critique, but she probably just didn't want to openly critisize her Saudi counterpart on an international platform. Damn arabs take offence so easily. Either that or she just felt unappeased at all the exposure the book got by including a couple of paragraphs of sexual description, whereas her much more interesting non-fiction historical account of Saudi Arabia received not much publicity in comparison. I am also skeptical about the so-called fatwas and death threats Hamad supposedly recieved, as he certainly seems proud of them judging by the way they're plastered over the cover. This just makes me think it is a publicity ploy that decorates the blurb quite nicely. It seems, the number of fatwas you get now is supposed to reflect how good a book is?!
Overall, good plot, badly structured and badly narrated. Don't think i'll buy the third part when it comes out....I can't help feeling ripped off, he could have easily squeezed the whole thing in one book. Even so, with the dismal amount of books published in the Gulf, any attempt should be applauded.