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The Consequences of Love by Sulaiman Addonia

The Consequences of Love (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Sulaiman Addonia (Author)

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1076112,824 (3.78)6
Title:The Consequences of Love
Authors:Sulaiman Addonia (Author)
Info:Vintage (2009), 352 pages
Collections:ALL FICTION READ-OWNED & UNOWNED, Read but unowned
Tags:read in 2017, 21st century literature, 2000s, *ERITREA literature

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The Consequences of Love: A Novel by Sulaiman S.M.Y. Addonia (2008)


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"Men in white thobes... women in black abayas. The scene made you feel like you were in an old black and white movie"
By sally tarbox on April 21, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Narrated by Naser, an Eritrean who has been brought to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia by his uncle. He wonders if his mother is still alive back in Africa; meanwhile he lives a lonely life in this constrained society, while working in a lowly job. And then one day an unknown woman in a burqa drops a love letter in his lap before hurrying away. ...
An unusual read, as a friendship slowly develops through surreptitiously exchanged notes, although Naser has never seen the woman and even wonders if it could be a man out to get him in trouble with the Religious Police ...
I couldn't put it down; it gives an interesting glimpse into a warped world, where the glossy shopping mall stands beside Punishment Square, where "heads and hands were cut off and lovers were flogged, beheaded or stoned to death." Where the sound of the imam's hate-filled sermons floats into the home. Where young men are forced into single-sex company, and homosexuality, glue-sniffing and drinking perfume - the only source of alcohol - are prevalent. And where violence or death are the price for contravening the code of conduct...
An accomplished first novel ( )
  starbox | Apr 21, 2017 |
Naser's mother sent him away from war torn Eritrea with his younger brother when he was a young boy himself. They ended up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with their religious uncle. But this turned out to be an unhappy circumstance for Naser as his uncle sent him to pay their kafeel (Saudi sponsor) the money they owed him for their continued sponsorship. But the uncle didn't give Naser any money, ensuring that he would be forced to use his body as payment. And so goes Naser's further introduction to the ironies and horrors of Saudi society. Eventually cast out from his uncle's home and abandoned when his uncle and brother move to Riyadh, he makes friends with other lost boys with whom he sniffs glue, drinks perfume, and speculates on the hidden women walking past in black burqas. His existence is a dull one, washing cars, one of the menial jobs which foreigners are allowed to hold in Saudi, and wandering with his friends until one day, as he lounges under the tree in front of the house in which his uncle used to live, a veiled woman drops a note at his feet. Suddenly his drab black and white world takes on some color, specifically the pink of this woman's shoes under her stifling, black burqa. As Naser falls in love with his note writing Fiore, the two of them risk more and more to know each other under the nose of the strict and oppressive Muslim rule patrolling the streets.

While the love story between Naser and Fiore is the center of the plot, the book really has more to say about Saudi society and its hypocrasies than about love. Love is forbidden and all marriages are arranged but sodomizing young boys, even unwilling ones, is socially, if not religiously, acceptable. This men's world devoid of all women is one big boy's club with all the nastiness that this implies. Certain books, alcohol, and other things are forbidden by the imams but if a man is of great enough consequence, he can smuggle in whatever he wants and can do whatever he wants without fear of reprisal. But a man of no consequence, especially a foreigner being offered asylum, must guard his every action for fear that he will be summarily executed, even for a crime he did not commit. The scent of fear is palpable throughout this book; fear of the religious police as well as fear of the powerful elite. Betrayal can not only hurt, it can kill and trust is an emotion in which not many can afford to indulge.

Addonia has portrayed a deeply flawed and horrific society in modern day Saudi Arabia, turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of powerful men, heavily punishing women and weak transgressors. And yet in the midst of this gut-churning depiction, he has created a love based on the written word, on intellect, and only secondarily on physical attributes. Naser is every immigrant, unaccepted and lonely, desperate for caring. Fiore is a bit more enigmatic as a character. Risking all as she has done because she feels she hasn't yet lived her own life makes her singular in a society that oppresses the rights of women to their own lives and I'm not entirely convinced that Addonia has drawn her as strong enough to be that character. Then again, as we only see her through her notes and through Naser's eyes, perhaps therein lies the fault of perception.

The beginning of the novel is quite jerky and hard to follow. It took a concerted effort to sink into the story, to follow the flashbacks Naser tells through his diary entries. But eventually Addonia hits his stride and the story pounds along with rising tension and risk pulling the reader through the pages. The ending is both no more than expected and somehow still a surprise. Scenes throughout the book are very visceral and sensory, either visual or even, amazingly enough, tactile. Occasionally Naser was annoying and certainly when he was a bit of a wastrel before meeting Fiore, I struggled to connect with him, but his life and opening himself up to love transformed his character. It allowed the hints of soul and morality the reader glimpses when he refuses to go to the mosque anymore to listen to the blind imam spout hatred against any but the chosen few radicals to come into full flower. Addonia has crafted a heart pounding novel of oppression and love and anyone interested in other cultures will certainly find themselves immersed in a way of life so foreign to those of us in the west as to be unfathomable. I know I won't be so quick anymore to accept the media portrayal that Saudi Arabia is quite westernized and therefore full of many of the freedoms we know here. An eye opening novel and one that I will be ruminating over for some time to come. ( )
1 vote whitreidtan | Mar 3, 2010 |
Reading The Consequences of Love by new Eritrean author Sulaiman Addonia literally stopped my heart and took my breath away. Addonia delivers a very personal and inside view of a society filled with both religious and governmental repression, a world where love is a luxury, passion forbidden, sex a crime.

Set in present day Saudi Arabia, this is a gorgeous literary debut not to be overlooked. Consequences of Love weaves a story of sensuous secret liaisons between two lovers risking their lives to keep their flame burning, so that one day they may be free from religious tyranny and laws that prevent unwed people to display their love openly. Fiore is a stunning 19-year-old Eritrean woman with long luscious dark hair falling to her waist, she captivates with the mysterious almond eyes of a doe. One day while out shopping she notices a handsome young man named Naser, and from that day on, for Fiore, it is love at first sight. Muslim law states that no unwed man or woman may glance, speak to, or touch a member of the opposite sex or harsh punishment will be issued. Young lovers caught, suffer the pain of disfigurement, stoning, brutal public lashings, imprisonment and eventually death by beheading. Religious police canvas streets day and night searching for offenders. In Saudi Arabia, matches are made ONLY through an arranged marriage, or, a man must be wealthy enough to purchase a bride, paying dowry prices that are beyond affordable. With most Muslim men financially unable to afford a wife, they often resort to the two remaining options of sodomy or becoming a member of the religious order. The author gives the reader an up front and close encounter of both these scenarios, enabling all of us born in other countries to be grateful we have not been exposed to such brutality, or have lived in such a harsh environment devoid of free thought, expression, or love.

One afternoon while Naser sits under a tree watching the world go by, a woman dressed in a full black burqa strolls by and drops a note at his feet. Quickly scurrying to hide and read it, he opens it to reveal that this mystery woman finds him attractive and invites him to respond. Note dropping is the mode of operation regarding secret communication amongst young men and women in Saudi Arabia, however it is also considered a punishable crime. With this one yellow note, begins the journey of forbidden passion that will beckon these two people to each other's hearts and dreams. Naser and Fiore's risky relationship brings courage and devotion to their cause, as they both have lived their entire lives wondering why they were born to such misery and restraint, both always yearning for more. The two use their imagination and ingenuity to find ways to communicate and meet, embracing with their eyes only as Fiore is completely covered by abaya and veil. Through clandestine seaside rendezvous' and secret letters transferred by a creative courier service, Naser and Fiore throw caution to the wind as they plot and maneuver a way to follow their hearts out of repression and a fanatical religious world that keeps their hearts imprisoned. To escape those hell-bent on catching them in their sinful acts, to run from the police who track them like bloodhounds sniffing their scent into entrapment, the two lovers whisper in the dark, disguise themselves in plain sight, and pray to Allah they can outwit and win. Cloaking their identities to those they fear, Fiore buys brightly colored pink shoes for Naser to pick her out in a crowd, Naser dresses as a woman to parade right in front of her father undetected. Friends help, friends betray, and the stakes get raised as they play the game and gamble.

The love between Fiore and Naser is refreshingly innocent and sweet. The author's presentation and writing skills offer the reader a poetic and romantic atmosphere of forbidden love that is sensual, sexy, and evocative of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. This novel is elegant in presentation, beautifully written with so much depth of emotion as Addonia breathes tension, fear, laughter, love and erotica to well crafted scenes gracing every chapter of this sensational debut. Every page a masterpiece, the author shows wondrous talent to pen a literary page-turner you can't put down. I read this book in one sitting. As I turned each page I was on the edge of my seat not breathing, so filled with the wonder of Naser and Fiore's devotion, and so wrought with fear knowing what the outcome would be if they were caught. Someone ought to vote this novel in for a Pulitzer, it's that sensational! Don't miss this intoxicating novel. ( )
  vernefan | Jan 5, 2010 |
Forbidden love in an oppressive regime. ( )
  HelenBaker | Dec 5, 2009 |
Jeddah is a city in Saudi-Arabia of multi-storey buildings, nicely built roads and luxury cars. It’s where Naser arrives with his little brother, after they have flown from Eritrea, a country in the grip of war, chaos and poverty. Naser’s sharp immigrant eye observes the outside splendour of this magical town, but as he stays longer and becomes older (and a bit wiser), he learns to see beyond these pretty facades of concrete and iron. The social reality here has a stinginess of its own. Men and women live in their own separate worlds and the demolishment of individual emotions and intellectual curiosity, at least in the public sphere, is equally destructive.

It’s a world of secrets and betrayal. Straightforward, honest feelings do not belong here. Even best friends cannot be trusted. It is more or less common knowledge that the Islam, supposedly pure and true, is the domain of cruel and ambitious men, who verbalise holy messages that they themselves do not live by and which are cynically used to hold power over others. Jeddah’s supreme holy man, the blind imam, for instance, is somewhere exposed as the hypocritical fox he truly is: “His influence is immense. He has Allah’s ears as well as the government’s”.

And yet, even where the romantic, secular type of love is forbidden, it has not ceased to exist entirely. As a timeless ideal it still stands against the corruption of political and religious everyday realities. One day a veiled woman drops a note in front of Naser, and they start a secret correspondence by making use of all the limits and opportunities that their repressive surroundings offer them. The woman starts wearing pink shoes so that Naser can pick her out in the street among all the other black anonymous shapes. Naser dresses himself as a woman and is able to appear freely in the room of the girl. Even her own father doesn’t dare enter here, as it is demarcated ‘female’, a place of self-obvious evils and strictly forbidden to any man who wishes to remain pure. Under protection of schemes and transgressions like this, the relationship is able to become serious and sexual.

But it is only able to last, as long as the eyes and ears of possible on-lookers are diverted. And naturally, this illegality and the constant fear of being found out places a heavy burden on the young lovers. “All we had was Fiore’s room, with her father just yards away, the religious policemen patrolling Al-Nuzla street, and the blind imam preaching about the evil sins. The small kingdom we created … was as weak as if fit were a castle built of sand.” That the castle is going to topple is never a question. How and when, is.

Sulaiman Addonia is clearly a writer who ‘has been there’, but too much knowledge and insight can also burden the storyteller. Because of the overflow of detail and concern for his two protagonists, Naser and ‘Fiore’, this novel tends to become too cerebral and loses some of its natural appeal. Naser and Fiore never become ‘people’. There is so much implied in their demeanours and actions, which is supposed to be meaningful, remarkable, or extraordinary, that in the end, the reader becomes, not so much annoyed, but indifferent to them. And he also starts to wonder. Is this image of a country, which is laid down so precisely and with such distinct colours, a fair account? Does the Saudi-Arabia as it is written down in this novel exist at all? And if so, is its picture complete or does it merely tell an aspect of the whole?

Ultimately, the reader will have to sort these questions out for himself. What remains is a novel that is polemic and critical. It attempts to give a voice to outsiders (here, women and immigrants) and successfully portrays them as intelligent, acting, adaptive people, who have their own histories to write, their own choices to make and who cannot be cast aside to the margins of their (host) society, indefinitely. That’s right, in this interpretation they could be embodiment of the type of independent, self-helping immigrant who is not very popular in Europe these days.

It’s at least one strength of this book. Ruling opinions need to be questioned and there simply aren’t enough mirrors. ( )
  maykasahara | Sep 12, 2008 |
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This book is dedicated with so much love to my mother, my maternal grandparents and in memory of my father.
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Whatever dream I had for myself in the future, my mother was always central to it.
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A Romeo and Juliet story set against the strict Muslim laws of Saudi Arabia, a sensuous and intensely wrought story of a young immigrant and a girl behind the veil who defy law and risk their lives to be together.

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