Friday, March 25, 2011

Library Journal Reviews Pigeon Wars of Damascus

Library Journal raves this week about Marius Kociejowksi's Pigeon Wars of Damascus. Scratch one down for the Yanks. (Of course, if Marius had set Pigeon Wars as historical fiction, say, and told the story of a trapped princess sold into a Syrian seraglio who used pigeons to get information to her lover in another land, who in turn used said information to bring down yet another (19th century, mind) middle-eastern autocratic regime, Pigeon Wars would have won a god-damn Governor General's Award.)

Sigh. Don't mind me. It's a Friday, after a long week: my bile runneth over...

So: to the review:

Kociejowski (The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool: A Syrian Journey) combines stories of people currently raising and training pigeons in Damascus, Syria, with mythic views of pigeons in Arab and Islamic literature. His Damascus is not a city of monuments but one of alleys, markets, and alienated individuals who guide him to an understanding of the disintegration and emptiness in an Arab culture that was once rich and strong. Most poignant is the chapter "The University of Pain," in which Kociejowski explains the losses mourned in today's Syria, the collective melancholy made bearable by a willingness to see humor and humanity among scenes of destruction and brutality. Kociejowski writes beautifully, weaving together his insightful personal portraits with richly suggestive stories from Islamic and Arab history. He makes it clear that the weakness of current Arab culture has internal causes but occasionally reminds us that the impact of the global economy and overwhelming military assaults on Syria's borders have contributed.
Verdict An unusual, poetic, and throught-provoking introduction to Arab culture, not for the physical traveler but for the reader who wants to gain insight into a culture.—Elizabeth R. Hayford, Evanston, IL

No comments: