cover image Khalil


Yasmina Khadra, trans. from the French by John Cullen. Doubleday/Talese, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-54591-4

Algerian writer Khadra (What the Day Owes the Night) chronicles a young man’s involvement in terrorism, beginning with an account of the November 2015 Paris attacks. Narrator Khalil, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, follows his childhood friend Driss into a Muslim fundamentalist group known as the Fraternal Solidarity Association. Together they are assigned to be part of a group of suicide bombers who will target the Stade de France in Paris during a soccer game, bent on transforming the event into one of “global mourning.” By weaving real events into Khalil’s story, With a narrative both intimate and broad, Khadra attempts to show the ways the disenfranchised and marginalized are seduced into violent fundamentalism, but much of this comes off as sketchy sociology. When Khalil’s suicide vest fails to detonate, he goes into hiding and relies on friends and family to shield him from his co-conspirators while lying to them about his involvement in the bombings. After he finally reconnects with the “brotherhood,” Khalil must decide where his loyalties lie: with those he loves or with his mission with the terrorists. The narrator functions as a cipher for a series of conversations about Muslim identity and racism in relation to the stigma of Islamic terrorism, which are by turns illuminating and pedantic. In the end, Khadra’s difficult story about one man’s search for meaning comes up short. (Feb.)