Yemen is apparently not a country famous for its authors, at least not translated fiction, so this time around it was easy to choose the only book I found. At least then you can’t second guess your choice, since there is no other option. It is also quite nice not to have to sort out lots of details ordering from another country’s secondhand bookstores, but instead just clicking it onto my Kindle. That is exactly what I did with A Land without Jasmin by Wajdi Al-Ahdal.
This is a short book, just under 100 pages. It’s a fast and easy read, and enjoyable for the most part. Every chapter is written from a different point of view. It starts with Jasmin telling her own story. She is a young woman, living at home, she has three brothers, and she studies at the Sanaa university. Then one day she doesn’t come back home.
Since every chapter has a different point of view, the reader gets a different glimpse of Jasmin, which is delightful. There is for example the policeman who is trying to find Jasmin, her mother, and the boy next door, who is four and a half years younger than Jasmin, and he is a bit obsessed with Jasmin.
I enjoyed reading Jasmin’s own story, her telling about her life, how she was hanging with her friends, eating snacks at the university, and just living her life. The saddest, by far, is the story that tells what despicable things were done to the boy next door. I do not want to give anything away, so I will not go into that story, even though I want to. The boy really wanted to find jasmine and he kept desperately trying to find her, going around town almost without breaks, which did not end up in his favour. Quite heartbreaking really.
I liked the flow of the book, and I wish it was longer. The ending did however let me down, exactly the way you do not want to have it. The book is building towards something big, and then it totally goes down the drain. Otherwise I enjoyed reading about the cultural aspects that naturally are different, hash at times, and even though these things are not unheard of, but when it comes in a compact package like this it makes you think what kind of a world so many women live in, and will things ever change.