Absent

Betool Khedairi, Author, Muhayman Jamil, Translator , trans. from the Arabic by Muhayman Jamil. Random $13.95 (221p) ISBN 978-0-8129-7742-4

Iraqi-Scot novelist Khedairi (A Sky So Close ) tells the story of Dalal, a young girl growing up in a crowded Baghdad apartment complex during the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the Gulf War. The deck is certainly stacked against Dalal: orphaned as a baby, she is raised by her self-absorbed maternal aunt and an uncle, and lives under a cloud of collective political anxiety. Dalal herself, as she reaches her 20s, has a facial paralysis, works several jobs by necessity and attends classes. A cast of kooky neighbors helps her find her way, but while her environment seems safe, it may harbor a menace—a Baath government informant. Time is nebulous in the book, with Dalal floating back and fourth between childhood and adolescence in a way that is by turns gorgeously dreamy and jarring. As the title suggests, Dalal, who narrates, is largely absent from the larger forces at work, and while her observations are sometimes poignant, she rarely takes action or even makes a decision, simply allowing things to happen to her. But Khedairi does paint a lucid and insightful picture of Iraq in the late 1990s. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-977-424-963-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 187 pages - 978-1-58836-636-8
Paperback - 978-977-416-605-1
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