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Khadra, the pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul, an exiled Algerian writer celebrated for his politically themed fiction (The Swallows of Kabul), turns his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this moving novel unlikely to satisfy partisans on either side of the issue. Dr. Amin Jaafari is a man caught between two worlds; he's a Bedouin Arab surgeon struggling to integrate himself into Israeli society. The balancing act becomes impossible when the terrorist responsible for a suicide bombing that claims 20 lives, including many children, is identified as Jaafari's wife by the Israeli police. Jaafari's disbelief that his secular, loving spouse committed the atrocity is overcome when he receives a letter from her posthumously. In an effort to make sense of her decision, Jaafari plunges into the Palestinian territories to discover the forces that recruited her. Khadra, who nicely captures his hero's turmoil in trying to come to terms with the endless violence, closes on an appropriately grim note. (May)
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A rocket attack opens and closes the new book by Algerian army-officer-turned-novelist Mohammed Moulessehoul, who retains the feminine pseudonym he initially used to sidestep censorship before he moved to France. The attack parenthesizes the first-person, present-tense account of a Palestinian surgeon who, after hours of emergency duty saving the lives of a suicide bombing's gravely injured survivors, is wrenched out of much-needed sleep and told that his wife was the bomber. Horrified, he furiously asserts that she was incapable of the atrocity. But the evidence of her exploded corpse, which he identifies, is incontrovertible. Immediately, he plummets into despondency for days. Then, pulling himself together, he undertakes an investigation into what he perceives as her betrayal of him. The Attack is a detective story sans detective, suffused with raging grief over what sectarian violence has made of the Islamic world. Although powerful and engrossing, bursts of boilerplate indignation and see-it-a-mile-away climaxes make it a lesser achievement than Khadra's Afghanistan novel, The Swallows of Kabul (2004). Ray Olson
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