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The year is 1970, a period of crisis in the Arab world. Twenty-year-old Hisham has left home for the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, where he’s enrolled at university to study politics and economics. But this city has more than academic qualifications to offer a man of Hisham’s mettle, and he soon discovers a strange underworld of alcohol and prostitution where fear, pleasure and politics merge. Here hospitals prove the richest cruising grounds; the desert is the place for illicit couplings; and now Hisham is spying on the bedroom activities of his next-door neighbour’s wife, who has taken to leaving her door ajar.
Meanwhile, Hisham’s disillusioned childhood friend Adnan abandons his artistic ambitions in favour of a loftier cause – Islam. The two friends – who rapidly grow estranged – come to symbolise the opposite extremes of life in a repressive closed society. But their shared past soon conspires to reunite them in a new and terrifying way.
About the Author
Turki al-Hamad is a highly successful author in the Arab world. His novels are controversial throughout the Middle East; he is the target of four fatwas (religious edicts) claiming his life. He is the author of Adama and Shumaisi, both published by Saqi Books. He continues to live in Riyadh and teaches at the American University in Beirut.
'Just to experience the world in the person of a young Saudi man in the wake of the June war is a privilege.'
James Buchan, Guardian
'Shumaisi articulates the bathos and tragedy of the individual's struggle against an absolutist system.'
Alev Adil, Independent