Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Attack - Yasmina Khadra


Dr. Amin Jaafari, an Arap-Israeli citizen, is a surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv. Dedicated to his work, respected and admired by his colleagues and community, he represents integration at its most successful. He has learned to live with the violence and chaos that plague his city, and on the night of a deadly bombing in a local restaurant, he works tirelessly to help the shocked and shattered patients brought to the emergency room. But this night of turmoil and death takes a horrifyingly personal turn. His wife's body is found among the dead, with massive injuries, the police coldly announce, typlical of those found on the bodies of fundamentalist suicide bombers. As evidence mounts that his wife, Sihem, was responsible for the catastrophic bombing, Dr. Jaafari is torn between cherished memories of their years together and the inexcapable realization that the beautiful, intelligent, thoroughly modern woman he loved had a life far removed from the comfortable, assimilated existence they had shared.

From the graphic, beautifully rendered description of the bombing that opens the novel to the searing conclusion, The Attack protrays the reality of terrorism and its incalculable spiritual cost. Intense and humane, devoid of political bias, hatred, and polemics, it probes deep inside the Muslim world and gives readers a profound understanding of what seems impossible.


You begin this novel in the after effect of a bombing - it is written with short syntax to show the confusion and pain and commotion the first few seconds after a bombing has taken place. As an American, I immediately connected to the main character and his set of values - very much a self-made man, he takes comfort in creating his own place in the world. Although he comes from a Bedoin tribe, he leaves their ideals and faith behind - they are on the Muslim side of the area. His wife is described as a young, intelligent woman very much in love with her husband. It almost feels like being punched in the gut when you find out her beliefs, in the end were hidden and very much different from those she displayed to her husband. He takes a journey to find who "took my wife's mind" and to try and understand why she did what she did. You are confronted with the fundamentalist Muslim ideals and learn why they believe suicide bombings will make a sense and where they come from. The last paragraph of the synopsis really describes how it is done - very much without any sort of bias. Neither side is projected as right or wrong - just as they are. I was extremely impressed that the author was capable of this - it took a lot of skill not to let any political or personal biases shine through at all (although one can assume that the author takes the view of the main character).


This was a beautifully written book. The author takes you on a journey through grief and the need for an answer, and finishes the novel with a wonderful sense of unity.

Recommended for:

It is very graphic, so I would recommend this to older readers and those open to reading on this subject as it can be painful to read and is obviously very controversial. This is for the reader who enjoys controversy, graphic imagery, and heavy, serious topics

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