Levant Fever – True Stories from Syria’s Underground by Wajdy Mustafa

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This book couldn’t be more timely…or controversial. Terms or phrases that have sadly become part of the world’s vocabulary in a negative and frightening way – Shiites, Muslim Brotherhood (precursor to Islamic extremists), Allah–o-Akbar — are presented here as part of the daily life of the author. He spent a great deal of his life in and out of prison for the “crime” of associating with the wrong people or speaking out against the atrocities around him.

It’s not an easy book to read, with graphic details of beatings, torture and assassinations, not to mention prison conditions that were themselves a form of torture.  Yet this book is something of a history lesson, and while it’s doubtful that most readers will feel much sympathy for those involved, it does provide a better understanding of the conditions in Syria and Lebanon, past and present.

Even though the violence is predominant, perhaps the saddest portions of the book are the author’s childhood memories of playing with friends in a land that was once considered beautiful, at least through the eyes of a child. He also relates very “human” tales of family and love. One can’t help but wonder if things could have been different if generation after generation hadn’t resorted to fighting and brutality. Or is it impossible to break the vicious (literally) cycle of violence?

History buffs and readers curious for some explanations or understanding will surely be very satisfied by this book, powerfully written by Wajdy Mustafa.

 

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