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In another wryly self-aware passage, a (white American) convert to Islam questions why eastern writers are able to write great western literature, while the reverse doesn’t hold. Unless Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet might qualify as eastern literature?
There’s a very simple test, replies Vikram the Vampire.““Is [the book] about bored, tired people having sex?”
“Yes,” said the convert, surprised.
“Then it’s western.””
G. Willow Wilson is a boundary and border crosser of the rarest variety–a sophisticated political thinker who is also a cracking storyteller. In Alif the Unseen, she gives us a novel whose thriller elements are in perfect equipoise with a deep understanding of the current socio-political ferment in the Middle East.
In an unnamed state at the time of the Arab Spring, Alif, an Arab-Indian hacktivist, manages to stay a step ahead of the state’s increasingly efficacious attempts to capture him. But Alif, whose clients include Islamists, feminists, anarchists, secularists and pornographers (anyone whose online activities might run afoul of the state), is finally undone when his upper-class girlfriend dumps him for the state’s head of security, a shadowy figure known as the “Hand of God”. Alif might feature on the World’s Best Coders list, but when facing a corporeal enemy, his shortcomings are revealed to be as varied…
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