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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Light page tanning. Cover wear. A few pages have corner creasing.
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The Trench Paperback – August 10, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Munif sets this second volume of his critically acclaimed Cities of Salt trilogy in a Middle Eastern kingdom during the 1950s.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

The American ``liberation'' of Kuwait adds unexpected timeliness to the second volume of Munif's stately, satirical Cities of Salt trilogy (1987), which picks up the story of the Middle Eastern sultanate of Mooran in the 1950's, as the corrupting effects of oil, greed, and American values reach epidemic proportions. Munif cannily keeps both oil and Americans offstage, focusing instead on the petty conflicts and intrigues swirling through the reign of Sultan Khazael, and especially on the incessant plotting of Machiavellian Dr. Subhi Mahmilji, the young sultan's chief advisor, who has the authority to establish and direct Hammad al-Mutawa as head of the secret police--but whose power is subtly challenged by his wife Widad, who dreams of every man in the sultanate but him; by his assistant Muhammed Eid, who wants to marry his golden-haired daughter Salma; by his son Ghazwan, whose trip to the US infects him with the decline of the West; and by innumerable rivals in and out of court. Mooran's inexorable slide toward capitalism (Munif's title refers both to shifting seismic foundations and to holes people can fall into) is presented in tiny, apparently inconsequential episodes, from business deals--an automobile franchise provides a particularly riotous interlude--to family quarrels; and Munif, who seems to love his scheming principals as much as Jean Renoir loved his doomed aristocrats in Rules of the Game, stays so close to their plans, fears, and desires that their tragic absurdity remains hidden for a long time--until the inevitable peremptory reaction against the sultan's regime. Munif's satire, in fact, may be entirely too subtle for American readers. But this sly, patient dissection of a sultanate grown too rich for its own survival makes it clear why the author lost his own Saudi citizenship. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 10, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679745335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679745334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is indeed part two of a trilogy; the first book is "Cities of Salt," and the last is "Variations on Night and Day." However, Western readers are likely to be confused by the thread of narration; Book 1 describes the effects of American oil industry on the fictional Sultanate of Mooran (1940's?) while #2 dispenses with the Americans to focus on the intrigue and cultural shifts in the sultanate (1950's?). Book 3 returns to before the discovery of oil, and features the British-born Hamilton, modelled largely on St. John Philby (father of Kim Philby).

I am very sorry to have to refute the incredibly snide Kirkus Associates review, which joyfully embraces the trope of squalid, vile Yanks and noble, complex Britons. Kirkus' reviewer needs to actually read what the writer says rather than regurgitate his own prejudices. Mooran has nothing whatever to do with Jordan; it is clearly a medley of Saudi Arabia and the Trucial States (for one thing, there is not a significant volume of oil in Jordan). It's difficult to make the case that the Doctor's son, who indeed attends graduate school in San Francisco, is corrupted by "American values" (whatever the hell those are!); the only Americans he interacts with are employees of the State Department, and are agents of state policy, not "American values." This book describes an entirely different world from either Iraq or Kuwait, and the reason Munif "cannily" keeps the USA or the oil offstage is that he's done with them.

Munif does indeed write about what he feels like, and the vignettes are narrated in whatever sequence he wants. He returns to earlier points in each narrative to achieve whatever point he needs to make.
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Format: Paperback
"The Trench" is the second book in a trilogy commencing with "Cities of Salt." Munif's novels are thinly disguised accounts of events in Saudi Arabia, commencing with the discovery of oil by the Americans in the Eastern Provence, and its impact on the inhabitants. This book spans a decade, roughly corresponding to the rule of King Saud (Khazael in the novel), from 1953, with the death of the nation's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Khureybit) to 1962, when Faisal (Fanar) assumed active control of the government. Whereas "Cities of Salt" was largely set in Dhahran (Harran), "The Trench" is set in the capital, Riyadh (Mooran).

It is a great novel, rich with insights into the human condition that transcends the Saudi setting. The rush of modernization, coupled with the nostalgic loss of traditional values. There is the corruption and scheming that money can inspire. Munif might present it in a satirical, even tongue-in-check way, but there are numerous lessons in "statecraft" that are worthy of "The Prince." Munif displays a full palette of characters, major and minor, most, plausibly developed. I could almost hear Munif chuckling to himself as he wrote about Dr. Subhi Al Mahmilji evolving his "Square Theory." Clearly Munif possessed visceral contempt for at least one person who had wormed himself into the King's inner court. There are the dynamic complexities of family relationships, and there is some love, and much lust and sex. I found the appointment and evolution of the first head of intelligence, Hammad Al-Mutawa particularly well done, and fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Part 2 of his trilogy, following Cities of Salt, is an intelligent and interesting continuation of a fascinating place and time. First, I strongly agree with reviewer Mr. Maclean in his comment about the Kirkus review! What book did the Kirkus reviewer read?

As I stated in my review of Cities of Salt, this is more a story of a fictional Middle Eastern nation moving from a tribal to a 20th Century economy with all the societal, political and cultural upheavals that implies. Munif uses the personalities of his characters more than actual events to tell this part of the trilogy's story.

This is NOT a book about the evils of the "West" or about those nasty folks destroying all that was good about their country. It is about the growing pains felt by all countries trying to grow up and be a part of the rest of the world. Sure, there are opportunists, double-dealers, etc. but there were some of the same in their "old" tribal society, too. This is revelatory rather than reactionary.

Please read this, BUT read Cities of Salt first; and don't read into it what Munif didn't put into it!!!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It might be forgivable for a beginner novelist to write book which is so long but totally lacks any development of characters. But to claim that this book series be "highly acclaimed" would be a big stretch.

Indeed, book sets the stage in a city of Mooran, and within 560 pages fails to move elsewhere, except brief mentioning of trips to the US or Mecca. All right, even in static circumstances the author could have thought of some events, maybe court intrigues, love affairs, assassinations, etc. - the kind of things our life has plenty of. Instead, the author describes a bunch of self-sufficient people who just happened to be close friends of Sultan, and these people simply waste the lives as time goes by. Well, by "wasting" I mean that they build palaces, buy luxury cars, and some of them even create philosophical theories. Maybe this is indeed what happens in Arab world, which I am not very familiar with, but politics in the US and Europe is much more dynamic, nowadays as well as before.

So, the author presents those rulers as totally uninteresting, boring people. All right, if that is the case, why spend 500+ pages describing them? Sometimes, I have impression that the author was paid on per-page basis, so he was simply working as "typewriter" - just type what comes up to your head, and God will sort it out...
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