In Praise of Hatred

July 17, 2014 Fiction, Translated Fiction 6

18630509Title: In Praise of Hatred
Author: Khaled Khalifa
Source: from publisher via LibraryThing
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Although this was beautifully written and gave me some insight into life in Syria, it was mostly confusing and disjointed.

Set in the Syria in the 1980’s, In Praise of Hatred tells the story of a young muslim woman whose name is never given. Facing scorn from her secular classmates and the conflicting views of her variably conservative family members, she takes refuge in hatred for those who are different from her. As her uncle’s become involved in trying to overthrow the regime, she herself becomes increasingly radical in her views. Alongside her coming of age story, we also learn about the many dramatic romantic liaisons and fascinating histories of her family members.

Like Reading Lolita in Tehran, this turned out to be a very literary book. Although the author sometimes compared feelings to physical objects in ways that didn’t resonate with me, there was no denying that his writing style was beautiful. On a sentence level, this was very well written. I wasn’t as impressed by the plot. The author often digresses to talk about the main character’s family members. These bits were some of the easiest to follow and some of the most exciting parts of the book. However, I didn’t like how they broke up the main story. Each time we returned to the main character’s perspective, I felt as though she fluctuated between hatred and more compassionate, accepting feelings. I didn’t understand what influenced her feelings or how she ended up feeling the way she did very well at all.

The last section of the book worked a bit better for me. It almost exclusively followed the main character and I could at least logically see how her emotions were changing. We still don’t get much in the way of her thoughts though, so I never felt a true connection. This was by far my favorite part of the book, because I enjoyed seeing the main character change, but I liked some of the earlier parts as well. The author began with a helpful little history lesson which at least gave me somewhere to start googling so that I could understand the events taking place in the book. The snippets of the different character’s lives all gave me interesting glimpses of what life was like in Syria in the 1980’s. Part of me feels like the problem might be me not the book. Perhaps if I read more slowly, more thoughtfully, I might find some meaning there I missed? I’m not sure. As is, I enjoyed the factual, educational parts of the book, but the feelings meant to be conveyed escaped me.

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6 Responses to “In Praise of Hatred”

  1. Amanda @ Off The Book

    ” Perhaps if I read more slowly, more thoughtfully, I might find some meaning there I missed?”

    I read the book as well, but I don’t think you missed a thing. It was very badly translated, very disjointed, and yes, confusing. I studied Middle Eastern studies in college, and have family in Syria, so I was initially really excited to read – but it was just a disappointment for me.
    Amanda @ Off The Book recently posted…FACE IN A BOOK | Book Reviews: “Torn Away” by Jennifer Brown & “The Girls at the Kingfisher Club” by Genevieve ValentineMy Profile

  2. Catherine

    I was looking forward to this book but ultimately it became a DNF for me. The self-loathing the young girl felt for every aspect of herself was simply too much for me to bear- especially as it was a product of her surroundings.

    I get that it is fiction but the reality of so many women in this world AND the fact that this was written by a Syrian man just made me angry and sad. It was clear he has no idea about women.
    Catherine recently posted…A Conversation with Deborah HarknessMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad it’s not just me! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it either though. I found her self-loathing believable (if unenjoyable), but not the fluctuations in her emotions. I also felt at several points as though the author just didn’t get women!

  3. Biblioglobal

    This was a book I struggled with also. I wonder how much was lost in translation, either linguistically or just culturally. The fact that the ending of the book was changed for the English translation bugs me and I wonder if some aspects of the book might have made more sense with the original ending.

    • DoingDewey

      Like I’ve said to the other commentors, I’m glad it’s not just me who had trouble with this one. I also think it’s likely that something was lost in translation here and I didn’t know that the ending was changed, but I don’t like that either!