Monday, September 3, 2007

Yasmina Khadra/THE SWALLOWS OF KABUL


During a particularly hot summer in Taliban-ridden Kabul, two marriages are irrevocably changed by the public stoning of a prostitute.

This book was published to enormous critical acclaim--every major review venue is quoted on the cover. This just further cements my disrespect for book reviewers--I have no idea who the heck they were all pandering to. This book is just insufferable--unoriginal plot that effortlessly promotes the patriarchy while pretending to criticize it, loose purple prose, unbelievable and unsympathetic characters. The author, an Algerian man (it's a pen name), simply capitalizes on all the interest in Afghanistan generated by THE KITE RUNNER and has created a flimsy little shadow puppet show to sell on those grounds, but I am utterly unconvinced that he has ever seen Kabul or has any idea what it's like--there are no place descriptions, although the characters do spend a lot of time walking around aimlessly outside so he's wasted a built-in vehicle for bringing the city to life.

Very, very unimpressed. Found myself rushing through the extremely unimpressive ending just to get it over with faster.

3 comments:

homeinkabul said...

Thanks for the review, I'm crossing it off my list now. :)

Alan said...

I am glad that I read your comments; I will not go for "Swallows" as I originally intended. Did you, by chance, read "Attack"?

moonrat said...

I haven't read Attack--you know, I was pleasantly surprised to read your review. I know his stuff gets well-reviewed, although I can't help but feel that SWALLOWS OF KABUL was a bit of a fictional cop-out: there was nothing to place it distinctly in Kabul, and it borrowed heavily from all the conventions of mainstream Afghanistan-related horrorshow without offering any insight or revelation.

After reading your review of Attack, though, Alan, I want to give it a shot... maybe I picked the wrong book of his to start with.