November 1979. Violence has broken out in the holiest site of Islam after a charismatic rebel and his devoted followers have announced the coming of the Mahdi and seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Among the insurgents is a young woman, Sarab, disguised as a man. As the horror and chaos of the siege reach their peak, she escapes and encounters a French officer from the opposing side. They form an unexpected bond, as hostility turns to attraction, but the violence of both of their pasts will return to haunt them.
Award-winning writer Raja Alem’s extraordinary narrative stretches from Saudi Arabia’s Najd desert to the heart of Paris. In her typical bold and captivating style, this most unusual of love stories unpicks faith and fanaticism, alienation and redemption, and ultimately what it means to be human.
About the Author
Raja Alem was born in Mecca and now lives in Paris. Her works include ten novels, two plays, biography, short stories, essays, literary journalism, writing for children, and collaborations with artists and photographers. She has received many awards in the Arab world and in Europe, including from UNESCO for creative achievement in 2005 and from the Lebanese Literary Club in Paris in 2008. In 2011, she became the first woman to win the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction, also known as the “Arabic Booker,” for her novel The Dove’s Necklace.
Leri Price is a literary translator based in the UK. In 2017, her translation of Khaled Khalifa’s No Knives in the Kitchens of This City (Hoopoe, 2016) was short-listed for both the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)’s National Translation Awards and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.