Monday, November 16, 2009

Wolves of the Crescent Moon by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed

Yousef Al-Mohaimeed's works are banned in his home country of Saudi Arabia, but he has found an international audience with the help of skillful translators. In Wolves of the Crescent Moon, Al-Mohaimeed gives us a taste of the underclass in Riyadh. The book is told from the perspective of three outcasts. Turad is a former Bedouin tribesman who has recently quit his humiliating government job, and now finds himself at the bus station in the middle of the night, longing to flee, but with nowhere to go. Tawfiq, once a Sudanese slave, worked with Turad as a ministry servant. Nasir is an orphan who is denied his dream of becoming a soldier.

In actuality, all the narratives are funneled through Turad's mind, which is sleep-addled at best. While in the bus station he thinks back on his past, recalling Tawfiq. Soon after comes a chapter from the perspective of Tawfiq. Turad finds a file folder lying on a bench in the station. In the file are documents pertaining to Nasir Abdulilah. This is followed by a chapter from Nasir's perspective. As the night progresses, the boundaries between the three narratives begin to breakdown. A paragraph from the perspective of Nasir finds its way into a selection otherwise from Turad's point of view. In this way, we find out some similarities among these men. Turad is missing and ear, Tawfiq is a eunuch, and the orphan Nasir is missing an eye. These men have experienced physical and familial loss as they struggle to survive in a rapidly-changing country. As traditional Saudi Arabian society bangs up against Western culture, these men are the ones getting bruised from the collision.