Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Rope by Kanan Makiya

I read the book in the Arabic translation (not by the author naturally) and compared to the English text.  I wrote a detailed critique in Arabic but will share some observations.  Who convinced the author that he is a novelist? The author mistook the politically favorable reception to his writings which served US empire and wars, and his two Israeli honorary doctorates, as a confirmation of his talent.  The book Republic of Fear was written in a flowery language but had very few insights.  His book Cruelty and Silence was an attempt to mimic the language of the first book but with more dishonesty and distortions.  It was basically a tribute to himself having criticized Saddam during his lifetime--albeit under two, not one, pseudonyms.  But this book? What an idea of a novel.  Makiya's idea of a novel is to name a character and then stuff him with long boring tedious monologues that go nowhere.  HE does not know how to add dimensions to a character.  All the characters lack any dimensions, and when the narrator talks about his friend, uncle, father, mother, grandfather, you don't give a damn because the whole thing is just boring and tedious.  His idea of a novel is to basically infuse characters with speeches--long boring speeches.  The character of the soldier from Jaysh Al-Mahdis is the fulfillment of the fantasy of a classical Israeli Orientalist: it is all about religion and nothing but religion.  The characters don't sing or dance or enjoy food: they just obsess about religion, just as orientalist imagine them to be.  But Makiya knows the Western game: if any Arab who is favorable toward Israel, say the King of Jordan, were to write a book of poetry or a novel, the entire body of Western media would declare him the best poet and the best novelist there is.  Just go back and see how the first book of King Husayn was reviewed in the Western world--although he never wrote it himself.  Makiya was relying on the political sympathy of Western and Israeli journalists for his political stances in producing the book, knowing that no one would dare trash a book which deserves to be trashed.   I just urge you to read it and decide for yourself.  The entire book focuses on one victim in Iraq: the one victim who was NOT killed by an American invasion and occupation which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.  Like the New York Times which focuses on Palestinians as victims only if killed by other Palestinians, Makiya chose Abdul-Majid Khu`i as the only victim because he was presumably killed by other Iraqis. And why Khu`i? He tells us that once he was at an Iranian restaurant in London, and Khu`i paid the bill for them although they were drinking alcohol.  "Always the gentlemen", says Makiya.  He has nothing to say about US war crimes in Iraq.  His entire book was basically a formulation for Makiyah to finally distance himself from the gang of 13 lousy Shi`ite politicians who were installed by the American occupation (although he naturally does not blame the occupation).  He basically does not fault the occupation but faults the Iraqi people for not being welcoming to the occupation of their country.  He dismisses any conspiracy theory which relates to Americans but accepts any conspiracy theory which relates to Iranians.  He is a big admirer of Sistani and of the corrupt and repressive Kurdish tribal autocracy up north in Iraq.  And the biggest act of dishonesty is the apology section at the end of the book: it is half a page in the Arabic version (so the translation was not honest) and extends over 30 pages in English.  The book is written for and addressed to the White Man, and for that the apology had to be excised from the Arabic version.  He has no apologies to make except his support of Chalabi and company: the same people who brought him to Iraq and put him in a position close to power.  The book fails at every level but I won't be surprised if it results in a 3rd Israeli honorary degree for the author.

PS And to compensate for lack of literary talent, the author invokes the name of Russian and Western writers, and dares to mention the name of Dostoyevsky in talking about the scene between Saddam and the narrator (one of the most boring and senseless scenes of the book).  Let me paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen when he debated Dan Quale: Makiya. You should not even be in the same sentence with Dostoyevsky.  But you can easily be in the same sentence with Thomas Friedman as a writer, but with more tediousness.