Oman surprised me because it was easy to get hold of the one book I found that had been translated into the English: Earth Weeps, Saturn Laughs: An Omani Novel by Abdulaziz Al Farsi. By now I have certain expectations of Arab Muslim literature; tradition versus modern life, changes in the society and people trying to avoid changes, and how good of a Muslim you are.
I got what I paid for. The call for changes, modern life, globalization and being a good Muslim is not easy. When Khalid Bakhit returns to his home village, he is seen as an enemy of traditional village life. “Khalid Bakhit is nothing but a plague God has visited on the village”. He is an educated man who organized protests at his university and back in the days, he rejected the religious practices in his village.
The book is written from the point of view of several people in the village. These persons are quite peculiar, and everyone of them feels like they have the right point of view of what is happening. Tension is growing in the village, and evidently something will happen soon. Khalid’s grandfather is the leader of the village, and once he lets a new Bangladeshi imam into the village, which seems to be the last straw, and the village is split into two. Some villagers did not want to recognize Khalid’s grandfather as the leader anymore.
Khalid seems to have been somewhat of a rebel as a young man already, and life in the city had made him more of a modern man than his village could handle. Modern ways were not welcomed by most, even though it often seems that modern ways are in fact welcome, as long as everyone can choose which modern ways can be part of the society, and which cannot. This seems to be a universal issue.
In many ways this book is entertaining and it is interesting to see how different people react to the same thing. However, I am tired of the exactly same issues coming up book after book. Clearly, there is a need for these issues to be vented, and people react slowly to some changes. The religious issues and differences for example between Sunni and Shia is naturally important in many countries and cultures, but who can attend a mosque and which mosque is not for you becomes mundane to me, no matter which religion we are talking about. I am also still wondering how affairs and children born out of wedlock can come as a surprise to so many people. I guess so many things are accepted as long as no one else knows about them.