Red birds

by Mohammed Hanif

Paperback, 2019





New York : Black Cat, 2019.


"An American pilot crash lands in the desert and finds himself on the outskirts of the very camp he was supposed to bomb. After days spent wandering and hallucinating from dehydration, Major Ellie is rescued by one of the camp's residents, a teenager named Momo, whose entrepreneurial money-making schemes are failing as his family is falling apart: His older brother, Ali, left for his first day of work at an American base and never returned; his parents are at each other's throats; his dog, Mutt, is having a very bad day; and an earthy-crunchy aid worker has shown up wanting to research him for her book on the Teenage Muslim Mind. Amidst the madness, Momo sets out to search for his brother Ali, hoping his new Western acquaintances might be able to help find him. But as the truth of Ali's whereabouts begin to unfold, the effects of American "aid" on this war-torn country are revealed to be increasingly pernicious. Written with his trademark wit and keen eye for absurdity, and revealing critical truths about the state of the world today, Red Birds shows master storyteller Mohammed Hanif at the height of his powers"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Major Ellie, an American pilot, crash lands in an unnamed desert country, where he is rescued by Momo, an enterprising teenage resident of a refugee camp. Momo's older brother Ali has disappeared after going to work for the Americans at a secret desert base, and Momo wants Ellie's help in getting his brother back. We also get the point of view of Mutt the dog who narrates several chapters. Several other characters play supporting roles, including Momo's mother and father, a do-gooder social worker conducting research on the life of a teenage boy in a refugee camp, and a doctor who really isn't a doctor. This seems intended to be a satire on the absurdities of war, but, despite occasional witty one-liners, it never achieves the power of a novel like Catch 22, and instead dissolves into the absurdities of surrealism. I never got into this.… (more)
LibraryThing member charl08
"You must have heard that god created couples so that his creation could multiply and overpopulate the world. But god also created couples so that they could hound each other in life, betray each other and then haunt each other after one of them dies"

I am not sure that I would have kept reading this if it wasn't for being an ARC. Lots of smart comments about aid, international relations and foreign colonial wars, but the story didn't grab me. One downed pilot, one dog and one fifteen year old refugee who has lost his brother. Although initially it read to me as if it was something that felt all too real, it was as though the author lost faith in telling that story and instead diverted into magical realism territory.

"When someone dies in a raid or a shooting or when someone’s throat is slit, their last drop of blood transforms into a tiny red bird and flies away. And then reappears when we are trying hard to forget them, when we think we have forgotten them, when we think we have learnt to live without them, when we utter those stupid words that we have ‘moved on’. It’s just a reminder that they may have gone but they haven’t really left yet.
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