Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel

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Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel

Buy Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An intriguing and intimate read, that may be more autobiography than experiment.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: August 2015
Publisher: Salt Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781784630294

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Meet Lydia. She's a normal British girl, interested in following both her father, and Nadia Comaneci, into the world of gymnastics but not brave enough to pull off the larger set pieces, and with not much more to interrupt her days than wondering why boys always have to talk about their willies. Now meet Kauthar, a white British convert to Islam, devoted follower of the precepts of her religion, ardent wife and stalwartly self-fulfilling, no-nonsense and satisfied. But what is this – why is she talking of being alone in a desert, and why is she directly addressing her god regarding how she can't perform any movement. Because it is torn apart? Has something gone wrong?

There will be those for whom something went wrong the very instant Lydia became Kauthar, for they are one and the same, and yet of course very different. There will be those also who, when reading this quite unique little novel about a British convert to Islam (or a returnee to Islam, as they would have it), would point out that the only gain made by the process is for Kauthar's own sake – the means to an end to which the book points with increasing inevitability is not exactly beneficial for anybody else. All the same, that doesn't make this book any less important, and as it comes from an author and publisher who, as her biog states here, came to London in 1986 to study Arabic, it might be in fact an incredibly personal look at what will remain for many years to come the most controversial of religious conversions.

And we get an almighty close look at what the process does, via this writing. It's quite experimental in form at times, and very poetic in describing the act and actions involved – from a disembodied, the girl did this, the girl did that style to that first-person, intimate address to a higher being, we go through three approaches to the same story, regarding three time zones all comprehensively enmeshed, to see what it all means for Lydia/Kauthar – the very physical movements in prayer sessions taking on more than a little of the spirit and repetitious nature of gymnastics practice, for instance.

That poetic approach isn't completely sustained – there's a clunkingly awful letter exchange half-way through, that made me feel preached at, but if you seek a book that actually has a change to its lead character you can't go for a change more compelling than that here. While people will rightly say it should lead to something a lot more positive than what we end up with here – this book comes with free ammunition for some – it does open up a world that will be closed off to many. With a certain ISIS-linked female British convert in the news the very weekend of my writing this, this book is certainly salient, and the characterisations of Lydia and Kauthar are equally strong, with the inspiration for the switch as competently convincing as such a short volume can allow. It won't please everyone, but it will open many people's eyes, for the very strength that both sustains and comes from Kauthar's convictions is on every page.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Read Submission by Michel Houellebecq and Lorin Stein (translator) for a different fictional approach to Islam – one borne from, and seeking, quite different headlines. Magda by Meike Ziervogel was feminist faction, and very interesting for those with an eye to Holocaust literature. We also enjoyed Clara's Daughter by Meike Ziervogel.

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Buy Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel at Amazon.com.


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