by Najwa Barakat
Najwa Barakat’s Oh, Salaam! tells the story of three friends – an explosives expert, a sniper, and a torturer – whose lives are transformed by their involvement in a civil war in an unnamed Arab country, and by their relationship with the novel’s antiheroine, Salaam. Two of the friends live to see the end of the war but struggle to survive the arrival of peace and to make a life for themselves in a society that has no use for ex-paramilitaries. As the characters seek to find love, make it rich, or get out of the country alive, they use and torment each other, revealing the ultimate consequences of war and gender violence in a “city that no longer resembles itself.”
First published in Arabic (Yaa Salaam, 1999) and translated into Italian and French, Oh, Salaam! has been acclaimed for its skillful, unflinching treatment of antisocial characters, gender roles, and the effects of civil war.