This engaging novel in Arabic by Aziz Mohammed, a Saudi author and blogger from Alkhobar, tells the story of a lonely, melancholic person who defends his individuality against a social and economic system that threatens to overwhelm him.
The protagonist, who is frustrated by his limited abilities and is determined to protect his privacy, receives news that turns his life upside down.
He falls ill with leukemia and struggles with his family and work environment.
Although the author does not specify the society or country where the novel is set, the story could be based on the life of an ordinary young employee at an oil company in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.
The novel is written in a diary format — after reading Kafka, “K” decides to write a diary, too — with the protagonist recording his daily battles with life in a sarcastic voice.
The narrative flows smoothly, and the writing style follows a simple sentence structure and vocabulary choice.
Relationships have neither real value nor influence in the story. “K” is a lonely man who makes little effort to end his isolation — and that makes his story interesting and touching.
The novel, published by Lebanon’s Dar Al-Tanweer, is 31-year-old Mohammed’s first published novel. It was on the shortlist for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Booker).