cover image Guantanamo


Dorothea Dieckmann, , trans. from the German by Tim Mohr. . Soft Skull, $14 (151pp) ISBN 978-1-933368-54-2

Dieckmann, born in 1957, makes her U.S. book debut with this novel of prison camp survival: like Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , it tracks its protagonist through routinized torture intended to crush the prisoner's psyche. Rashid Bakhrani, a 20-year-old German born of an Indian Muslim parent, is caught by raiding soldiers in an anti-American demonstration in Peshawar. He is flown “home”—to the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Bored and scared by turns, Rashid still hopes he can explain his arrest is a mistake before being drawn into the interrogation process, where he is subject to beatings, sensory disorientation and humiliation. Rashid's American captors have created a complete and fictitious profile for him: to them, Rashid is not a curious tourist but a jihadist connected to a Hamburg cell with plans to attack Americans. Rashid soon tells his captors what they want to hear, and then begins to take on his fictitious identity. Dieckmann makes no authorial comments about Rashid's ordeal: she simply seals the reader, like Rashid, in the camp's claustrophobic horror. Unlike Solzhenitsyn's novel, there is no sense of a great ideological chasms being opened up, but Dieckmann's close focus pays off, like a blow to the head. (Aug.)