Wolves of the Crescent Moon

By YOUSEF AL MOHAIMEED

This 2003 novel from Saudi Arabia has already garnered comparisons to Gabriel Garc¡a M rquez and the school of magic realism but, delivered in a poetic translation by Anthony Calderbank, the effects produced by Al-Mohaimeed?s tale more closely resemble the shaggy metaphysical surrealism of Haruki Murakami. Cosmic coincidences insusceptible to logical parsing, along with life-or-death choices for the protagonists result in spiritual transformations. But here the supernatural events always prove to have mundane explanations. A woman hangs her laundered underwear out to dry beneath the gaze of the full moon, and thereafter immaculately conceives a daughter. Or so family and neighbors believe, not being privy to the photo of a handsome man she secretly weeps over. This modern reduction of the miraculous to the commonplace, abetted by the assaults of contemporary civilization against human nature, drives the novel as both thesis and complaint. Even the streets of the city declaim injustice: “?the quarter of al-Mazlum, an old name that means ‘he who has been severely wronged.’” The sufferings of the three protagonists are exemplary: Turad, a Bedouin exiled to modern Riyadh, was once a daring desert bandit –but now must serve as coffee boy to jeering office workers. Tawfiq was stolen from his idyllic Sudanese village to become a eunuch and slave. And orphaned Nasir Abdullah, enjoys a brief mansion idyll before being kicked back to the streets. The lives and fates of these three intertwine in eerie synchronicity. Despite an attempt at uplift in the final chapter, Al-Mohaimeed?s novel paints a disturbing picture of a Middle Eastern society suffering from anomie and resentment: not the freshest news, but boldly delivered.