Buy Me, Saigon Tea?
``No kingdom in the world has more princes than we do,'' remarks a character in this horrifying, Kafkaesque tale about life in modern Saudi Arabia. There even the most innocent form of political criticism, like that exhibited by the narrator, Majed, meets with swift and brutal retribution. A prototypical ``angry young man,'' Majed spends his childhood herding sheep at the edge of the desert. Constantly chafing against bedouin taboos, he causes a scandal in the village with his mild flirtation with a young girl. After the death of his father, Majed and his mother move to the city to live with relatives. The young man is awestruck by the generosity of his uncle; for the first time in his life, he has his own room and a chance at a formal education. As he and a cousin experiment with alcohol and high living, Majed naively joins a student political group critical of the Saudi royal family. When the leaders of the group are rounded up and executed, Majed is imprisoned and tortured. Released, he soon finds himself confined to a mental institution for antisocial behavior. Al-Rashid's uneven, often excessively melodramatic prose is compensated for by the fascinating, seemingly authentic glimpse he provides of one of the world's most secretive societies. (Jan.)