A Land without Jasmine Paperback – 1 Sep 2012
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Wajdi Al-Ahdal has written a surreal detective story that is both lucid and spare, yet strips away the deceits of Arab life and satirises illogical attitudes. It brings to mind the writing style of Haruki Murakami and his 'Kafka on the Shore'... Anyone seeking an insight into life in Arab culture should read this. It is not comfortable reading, but it is powerful, poignant writing at it s best and the only shame is that this is so briefly told. ----Sam Hawksmoor, Hackwriters
An Occult Tale of Sexuality in Yemen... The 82-page novella touches on several themes that have put Ahdal s life on the line in the past. Namely, involving sex. His 2002 novel Mountain Boats was banned in Yemen for what the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram described as using Quranic expressions in describing sexual scenes. He fled to Lebanon and didn t return to Yemen until 2010 when he was guaranteed protection by the president. --Leah Caldwell , Al-Akhbar English
About the Author
Wajdi al-Ahdal is a Yemeni novelist, author of short stories, screenwriter and dramatist. Born in 1973, he received a degree in literature from Sanaa University. He won the Afif prize for the short story in 1997, a gold medal for a dramatic text in the Festival for Arab Youth in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1998, and the youth prize of the President of the Republic of Yemen for a short story in 1999. He is currently employed in Dar al-Kutub, the National Library in Sanaa.
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The ending of this book is well prepared for and is a bit of a mystery, but there are only a couple of real possibilities. You need to know a little bit about Middle Eastern folklore to figure out what probably happened to Jasmine, but this is provided in the book, in brief. In the end, someone is blamed for Jasmine's disappearance and is disappeared himself, and life goes on...without Jasmine.
This book is actually just a novella, 82 pages long,and is something you can read in an hour and a half. I was caught up in Jasmine's disappearance and swept along in the police investigation, as all the witnesses weigh in with their accounts, and as the ending comes closer I was pleased at the final outcome of the case. This is a fast-paced, interesting book about a young woman who maybe was not quite meant for this world, and found a way out of it. I wish I knew how Jasmine herself felt about her disappearance, and whether she was happy in her new state of being, but the book sort of answers at these questions, in a way, and you can take it as you like. The book reminds me of "A Palace in the Old Village," by the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, which also has a mystical ending, though a different one than this book. I find I rather like mystical endings, if they're well prepared for. They're different than run-of-the-mill literature and open out your sense of possibilities in life. A good book that'll grab you from page one and spit you out the other end going, "Huh!"
The novella is told in six voices which causes a bit of choppiness probably a factor of language translation issues. The author uses quite a bit of symbolism throughout the story. My only concern it is rather stereotypical in a negative way toward Arabs, could cause reader to be unjustly prejudice.
"In the mosque our men pray devoutly and piously, embodying such praiseworthy characteristics that they seem to be Merciful God's angels. But the moment they're back on the street they forget God, morph into evil demons, practice duplicity, deceit and perfidy, and chase after forbidden pleasures."
Quite a controversial novella, leaving the reader in limbo - which might have been the authors intent. Wajdi Al Ahdal is a rogue author, his writing causing his leaving Yemen. He takes on controversial subject matters and isn't afraid of potential backlash. A fresh voice, a maverick revealing a side of Yemen and the Middle East few would touch.