The Good Muslim - Tahmina Anam

***** Fascinating, engaging, bitter

I admit to being fascinated by books that narrate stories away from me, not only from a geographical point of view, but especially culturally. This novel by Tahmina Anam, which tells of Bangladesh in the 80s (with some small glimpse of the 70s), is one of those books that eventually attracts me right from the cover and from the promise of an “exotic” story than this suggests. Only when reading it I discovered that it was the second book of a trilogy, but you can easily appreciate it without having read the previous one.
As always, when I face these stories, I feel mixed feelings. I have a tendency to want to find inside them some references that somehow recall what I know. In this sense, I immediately identified with the character of the protagonist, Maya, a modern woman, close to our Western idea of a woman, despite being showed in distant country and in a relatively distant time (thirty years are many). Beside her are small details, like her mother watching “Dallas” on TV, exactly as I did in those days as a child.
The rest is largely different, almost alien, and sometimes disturbing. Her brother, who became from atheist to religious fanatic, after the war, closing stubbornly back into his world, drawing his son Zaid into it, makes you angry. His way of being deaf in front of his loved ones makes you upset and curious, since it leads to wonder why he has become so, and along with the protagonist you still want to find in him a glimpse of the man who had been before. The desire, never satisfied, to understand what goes into his head is with you for most of the book.
And then there are the personal and sentimental vicissitudes of Maya representing the only comforting aspect of this story when you come to its conclusion.
Everything is shown with an intense and evocative prose, combined with a game of flashbacks that like pieces of a puzzle reconstruct the story of Maya and Soheil, against the backdrop of a distant country, difficult to understand and imagine, in a merciless reality where there is no place for a happy ending, but only hope.
Although I read this book with great pleasure, although I got carried away with ease by its words, and although I decided to give it full marks, I won’t certainly read the previous nor the following one. The author is so good at making you live her stories that I prefer not to go forward, because I just cannot bear the winding sense of bitterness that has remained with me in reading them.

The Good Muslim on