Distressed by the state of the world, a man decides to prosecute God.
The unnamed main character in Bebawi’s (A Dream Is Just That, 2011) novel vividly recalls suffering from a severe fever during his otherwise pleasant childhood in “the exotic, confused, and utterly blurred world of Egypt.” He also remembers how, decades later, as a California-based English teacher on vacation in Paris, he experienced an inexplicable seizure in his leg that ended as quickly as it began. The seizures continued with increasing frequency, frustrating the man and worsening his lifelong insomnia to the point where he feared he’d start hallucinating (other people count sheep when trying to sleep, Bebawi writes, but his protagonist “counts the number of wars that have taken place before and after his birth”). While watching and reading news of a world seemingly falling apart—among many topical issues, the exile of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden gets a good deal of attention—and in his nervous, hyperstressed, “semi dream state, he feels the need to impeach God.” Specifically, he’ll try God in absentia before the Human Rights Council for crimes against humanity. He cites the Torah and the Old Testament as being “the original texts of bloodbath”—i.e., retribution and violence toward others—and moves on to the Quran, in which he finds God clearly inciting acts of terrorism. As the man’s obsession picks up momentum, his wife, friends and colleagues understandably become worried for his sanity. His project grows increasingly elaborate as he tallies up the “atrocities against humanity” that this unseen entity has committed, ranging from wars to plagues and famines, and he finds little evidence that these offenses have decreased in number even in the allegedly more peaceful New Testament. “God’s nature,” he concludes, “always has been vindictive, abusive, and violent.” Through mysteries and well-laid legal wrangles, the novel accelerates toward a fascinating, surprisingly spiritual climax. There’s a great deal of food for thought here, for believers and nonbelievers alike, and it’s all presented in a fluid, gripping narrative.
A man’s arraignment of God for crimes against humanity becomes a passionate investigation of faith.