In Praise of Hatred
Thomas Dunne Books April 8, 2014
In 1980s Syria, a young Muslim girl lives a secluded life behind the veil in the vast and perfumed house of her grandparents. Her three aunts—the pious Maryam, the liberal Safaa, and the free-spirited Marwa—raise her with the aid of their ever-devoted blind servant. Soon the high walls of the family home are no longer able to protect the girl from the social and political chaos outside. Witnessing the ruling dictatorship’s bloody campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, she is filled with hatred for the regime and becomes increasingly radical. In the footsteps of her beloved uncle, Bakr, she launches herself into a fight for her religion, her country, and ultimately, for her own future. Against the backdrop of real-life events, In Praise of Hatred is a stirring, layered story that echoes the violence currently plaguing the Middle East.
Khalifa creates a powerful narrative with an extremely fascinating protagonist. Banned in Syria after it was published in Beirut, my curiosity was instantly ignited. “Banned” always captures my attention and given my inquisitive nature I HAD to read this intriguing novel.
Our narrator is a nameless young girl. She resides with her aunts and finds herself drifting away from her family. Visiting her parents and family out of duty as opposed to emotional appeal.
Her story is gritty, dark and provoking. The entire novel is penetrating, leaving the reader feeling intrusive and encroaching. Unfamiliar territory makes the reader uncomfortable creating a fine line between the narrative being fiction or non-fiction. Eerily plausible and the hatred seeping from the protagonist is tangible. Given the recent and ongoing events occurring in Syria, Khalifa’s writing is searing making for quite an affecting read. Our young protagonist references “infidel West” among many other examples she feels antagonism towards leaving an unpleasant taste in the audiences mouth. With her direct and brutal comments, you find yourself enthralled, turning every page.
Our young protagonist is introduced to ‘hate’ when she is taught Satan creeps within her body. As puberty begins, she despises her body’s betrayal. Any young woman flaunting her body is despised by our main character.
As she learns of the significant battle between the Syrian government and the Muslim Brotherhood, she begins to despise the government and begins her descent from a conservative discipline to a hardcore radical teaching. Her hatred escalates as the violence and injustices increase. Her family is divided and torn by the horrific battle of sects.
An eye opener of a story, especially through the eyes of a young Muslim girl. The events are real, the setting taking place in 1980’s, the story rings all too plausible as this family and Syria deal with the conflict.
The level of hatred towards sects, infidels and anything in opposition is frightening. I never realized the magnitude of hate or the lengths taken against outsiders. Such strong convictions all based on differences, willing to kill, willing to be killed. Hatred is powerful and this novel is an example of how strong hatred can be. Disturbing story, educational and terrifyingly memorable. Khalifa exposes Syria, its people, government and readers to its dark underbelly, raw, candid. Three groups with three distinct agendas for their Syria, blood spilled, injustices repeated and what gain has been made except body counts, with hatred no one prevails.