A Land without Jasmine Paperback – Sep 11 2012
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A Land Without Jasmine - A gripping page-turner from a gifted and original storyteller, superbly translated
This novel deals with many social and political issues such as the sexual repression of males in a conservative society and the corruption of public institutions yet it does so in the guise of a thriller that keeps the reader enthralled. The story is told by several characters whose accounts do not often tally with one another, leaving room for the readers to synthesise their own version of the truth. Altogether a gripping page-turner from a talented writer, superbly translated by William Maynard Hutchins.
It is a novel which succeeds in addressing issues of sexual oppression and repression without sacrificing narrative tension. Through its use of multiple perspectives we are given a revealing insight into society, reminding us that no event, or place, has an objective existence or truth. Wajdi al-Ahdal is a gifted and original storyteller.
A Land Without Jasmine gives fascinating insight on life in Yemen, with a thriller-like plot that keeps the reader turning the page. In sparse, lucid prose with a tight narrative structure, the author paints a riveting portrait of sexual confusion, frustration and shame. The translation succeeded in creating an enjoyable English read and at the same time preserving the soul of the original.
About the Author
WAJDI al-AHDAL is a Yemeni novelist, author of short stories, screenwriter, and dramatist. Born in 1973, he received a degree in literature from Sanaa University. He won the Afif prize for a short story in 1997, a gold medal for a dramatic text in the Festival for Arab Youth in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1998, and the youth prize of the President of the Republic of Yemen for a short story in 1999. He is currently employed in Dar al-Kutub, the National Library in Sanaa.
WILLIAM MAYNARD HUTCHINS is a professor in the Philosophy & Religion Department of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, USA. He began learning Arabic while teaching at the Gerard School for Boys in Sidon, Lebanon. He studied at Berea, Yale and the University of Chicago, and began translating Arabic literature as a postgraduate student, starting with some of the epistles of al-Jahiz (Peter Lang). During his time teaching at the University of Ghana in Legon he began translating the plays of Tawfiq al-Hakim, and later published a two-volume collection (published by Three Continents Press). He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for Literary Translation in 2005-6 for his translation of The Seven Veils of Seth by the Libyan Tuareg author Ibrahim al-Koni (Garnet Publishing) and a second one in 2012 for , also by al-Koni (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas, January 2014). His translations of Arabic novels include Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, and Cairo Modern by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz (Anchor Books) and his 2013 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prizewinning translation of A Land Without Jasmine by Wajdi al-Ahdal (Garnet, 2012).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The ending of this book is well prepared for and is a bit of a mystery, but there are only a couple of real possibilities. You need to know a little bit about Middle Eastern folklore to figure out what probably happened to Jasmine, but this is provided in the book, in brief. In the end, someone is blamed for Jasmine's disappearance and is disappeared himself, and life goes on...without Jasmine.
This book is actually just a novella, 82 pages long,and is something you can read in an hour and a half. I was caught up in Jasmine's disappearance and swept along in the police investigation, as all the witnesses weigh in with their accounts, and as the ending comes closer I was pleased at the final outcome of the case. This is a fast-paced, interesting book about a young woman who maybe was not quite meant for this world, and found a way out of it. I wish I knew how Jasmine herself felt about her disappearance, and whether she was happy in her new state of being, but the book sort of answers at these questions, in a way, and you can take it as you like. The book reminds me of "A Palace in the Old Village," by the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, which also has a mystical ending, though a different one than this book. I find I rather like mystical endings, if they're well prepared for. They're different than run-of-the-mill literature and open out your sense of possibilities in life. A good book that'll grab you from page one and spit you out the other end going, "Huh!"
The novella is told in six voices which causes a bit of choppiness probably a factor of language translation issues. The author uses quite a bit of symbolism throughout the story. My only concern it is rather stereotypical in a negative way toward Arabs, could cause reader to be unjustly prejudice.
"In the mosque our men pray devoutly and piously, embodying such praiseworthy characteristics that they seem to be Merciful God's angels. But the moment they're back on the street they forget God, morph into evil demons, practice duplicity, deceit and perfidy, and chase after forbidden pleasures."
Quite a controversial novella, leaving the reader in limbo - which might have been the authors intent. Wajdi Al Ahdal is a rogue author, his writing causing his leaving Yemen. He takes on controversial subject matters and isn't afraid of potential backlash. A fresh voice, a maverick revealing a side of Yemen and the Middle East few would touch.