Incisive essays depict a world beset by “a geography of hysteria.”
In a selection of commentary published between 2010 and 2016, journalist and novelist Daoud (The Meursault Investigation, 2015), columnist for the French-language Algerian newspaper Le Quotidien d’Oran as well as contributor to many international publications, offers unsparing critiques of political Islam, Arab dictatorships, Western complicity, and social and cultural repression. As translator Zerofsky notes in an informative introduction, Daoud’s writings have earned him respect as “a commentator who could both speak for and criticize” the Arab world: “a Muslim and an Algerian, a member of a postcolonial society but distanced from it by the privilege of his position and his intellect.” He also became reviled for his views on Islamists and was condemned as an Islamophobe. In 2014, an imam called for a fatwa against him for “apostasy.” Daoud sees Islamists as religious fanatics, “an armed force, belligerent for war,” spawned from dictatorships. Islamists emerge “when you infantilize a population for decades, when you deculture them, reduce them to ignorance and take them back to the Middle Ages.” Violence, intolerance, and oppression of women reflect Islamists’ unease with difference, desire, and even with life. “For him life is a waste of time, blocking his way to eternity,” and women, the source of life, are the enemy. “The Islamist wants to veil woman to forget her, to deny her, disembody her, escape her,” Daoud writes in one among many essays denouncing societies that force women “to live under the laws of live burial.” Some essays respond to particular events, such as terrorist attacks in Paris, Arab refugees’ aggression against women in Cologne, and the death of a 3-year-old Syrian Kurdish child, drowned at sea, whose photograph shocked the world. Who is guilty for that death? “The smugglers, ISIS, Assad and his father, the Russians, Bush, and the Iranian regime: it’s a chain reaction” that reflects pernicious complexities. “When Aylan drowns, it’s the world that’s in shipwreck.”
A stunning, defiant, and impassioned collection.