cover image The Sirens of Baghdad

The Sirens of Baghdad

Yasmina Khadra, , trans. from the French by John Cullen. . Doubleday/ Talese, $19.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52174-1

Khadra's latest political thriller set in the Middle East couldn't be more timely. The versatile Khadra brings the reader inside the mind of an unnamed terrorist-to-be, an Iraqi Bedouin, radicalized by witnessing the death of innocents and the humiliation of the civilian population by the American forces in the Second Gulf War. Without apologizing for the carnage caused by either side in the conflict, the author, a former officer in the Algerian army, manages to make the thoughts of a suicide bomber accessible to a Western readership, even as the scope of the terrorist's intended target, meant to dwarf 9/11 in its impact, and the method's plausibility will send a shiver down the spine of most readers. Despite the essential bleakness of the book's themes, Khadra (The Swallows of Kabul ; The Attack ) manages to inject a note of hope toward the end, without betraying his powerful message of how the occupation of Iraq has brutalized both the Iraqis and the Americans. (May)