Out of Mesopotamia

Salar Abdoh. Akashic, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61775-860-7
Abdoh (Tehran at Twilight) delivers a superb pressure cooker of a novel centered on Saleh, a middle-aged Iranian journalist with one bum eye who splits his time between Tehran and covering the war on ISIS. In Tehran, he pulls in cushy art review gigs while navigating the cutthroat, overtly patriotic TV industry, where his script ideas are often compromised or stolen; while on the front line in Iraq and Syria, he embeds with coalition soldiers and mourns those who die in battle. Saleh is surrounded by a web of characters in both halves of his life, among them a security handler, H, who tests Saleh’s loyalty and sends him on a clandestine mission involving a text by Marcel Proust, and Atia, a friend who tries to recruit Saleh for a new magazine. When fellow journalist Saeed finds him in Iraq, Saeed insists Saleh is sabotaging their careers by protecting a woman known as Zahra the Beheader, who took revenge on the men who killed her family, and whose story the British media wants to buy from them. Meanwhile, aging artist Miss Homa, tired of life, asks Saleh to assist in her suicide. In chapters that shuffle Saleh around Syria and Iraq, Abdoh vibrantly illustrates the futilities and dangers of proxy conflict. As Saleh juggles his various objectives and dilemmas, he confronts his own desire for meaning (“In this war, nothing—nothing at all—made sense”). Abdoh brilliantly fuses the confusions of combat and modern life to produce an unforgettable novel. This is one of the best works of literature on the war against ISIS to date. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/01/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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