Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Reviews

Book Review: A Black Body Bag and other stories
(كيس أسود مخصص للأزبال)
by Khodeir Meirry
: One of the most under-appreciated Iraqi writers of contemporary fiction, Khodeir Meirry reaches new heights with this collection of short stories. From the bleak and strikingly graphic title story, about a young widow who goes to receive her son's corpse from Abu Ghareib prison and receives it in a plastic garbage bag, to the haunting delirium of The Hashish Tree, to the frightening portrayal of insanity and violence that is A Chant called Dodo, these stories encompass a wide range of emotions, yet focus, almost exclusively, on minds on the edge of collapse, on people whose inner demons are tearing them apart and whose sanity is about to give way to memories better left buried.
Despite Meirry's verbose style, the stories are fast paced and tightly-plotted. And although all his characters are more or less ravaged by the violence of war, Meirry is more interested in damaged psyches than in politics, resulting in stories that are nightmarish, surreal, terrifying, and, most importantly, possess a dark beauty that is rarely found in modern Arabic fiction. Highly recommended.

Book Review: Magaessee (المجسى) by Hagag Odoul: Nubian author Hagag Odoul, better known nowadays for his political writings, surprises and shocks with this novella, Magassee, a tale of werewolves, black magic and violence.
Telling the tale of a battle between two young warriors, one a kind-hearted young man who is out to unite his tribe and vanquish the evil that is threatening his clan, the other, the Magaessee of the title, is an evil shape-shifter, empowered by his ability to wield dark magic and change into a demonic werewolf.
Pulpy, nasty, violent and oversexed, this strange but stylish tale is a must for fans of weird fiction, and fans of fast-paced, purely plot-driven horror stories.

Book Review: The Tale of The Old Man Whom Whenever Dreams of a City , Dies There , and other stories ( حكاية رجل عجوز كلما حلم بمدينة . . مات فيها) by Tareq Imam: A new book by Tareq Imam, one of the most stylish and promising young Egyptian writers, means one thing. A non-stop reading binge.
Refining his style even more, Imam delivers 17 short stories (and some of them are indeed short, like Before we came to be, which is only a page long) that take you on a dark journey through nightmares, joys, pains, visions and revelations. Highlights include The City of Drowned Ghosts, a fine, hallucinatory, ghost story; Black Angel, an atmospheric, haunting, story, in which Imam manages to accomplish in one page what many authors fail to in a novel; and Moving, a superbly written, disturbing tale, about a female puppet master, who is, well, much more than that.
Reminiscent of some of the best works of Poe and Bradbury, yet stunningly original in their own right, these stories are a breath of fresh air, and a reminder that Imam is a singular talent to be reckoned with.

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