190 words about Mansour's Eyes
From skin to sand
Among the last ways I'd imagine a novel that blends a present-day public beheading in Riyadh, a 150-year-old recounting of an emir in France, the battle for Algerian independence and teachings of a 10th-century Sufi mystic starting out is with a sunset joyride into the Saudi desert via new Camaro after a Starbucks stopover, but that's the scene Ryad Girod throws at you ahead of an intense day in the lives of two Syrians whose fates diverge on account of a classic, rapidly escalating betrayal. Girod is a mathematician with a poet's grasp of language, so Hussein's panicked, unreliable narrative in Chris Clarke's hands translates as exactly the fluid delusion it is, a wadi awash in sacred geometry, hashish and petty envy of the titular character. Mansour (well, the main one) assumes a holy aura that reminded me of Sadegh, the guy always staring at the sun in Mohammad Rasoulof's Iron Island; each looks to the heavens for answers, and it's their distancing from everyone else, from mortality, from us, that makes them inspirational figures — or, if you're an authority more inclined to trust blades than dreamers, dangerous ones.