Stoning the Devil
Author: Garry Craig Powell (Selwyn 1974)
Publisher: Skylight Press
Stoning the Devil is a novel set in the United Arab Emirates, a country of paradoxes, of seediness and glamour, of desert grandeur and Disneyland vulgarity, where public executions and other barbaric customs are winked at by the western expats who run the economy.
Colin, a professor of literature, is not the 'typical' expat, ignorant and interested only in pleasure and his stock portfolio, but a speaker of Arabic and an admirer of Arab culture - or is he? To his Arab wife, he is an Orientalist who exoticizes and patronises the locals, unaware of his latent racism.
Powell presents a complex and contradictory set of Arab characters, who are a far cry from fundamentalist stereotypes. He also gives women in the Gulf a voice -as none are completely submissive. Garry Craig Powell delivers a powerful novel-in-stories and perhaps the first work of literary fiction set in the Persian Gulf by a westerner since Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. It echoes all the concerns of the great Arab writers, Mahfouz, Munif, and Kanafani regarding the post-colonial world.
Written by an author who spent a good deal of time in that part of the world, the Gulf is presented as a crucible in which people of different races and religions are forging a new humanity, in spite of the abysses between them.