Welcome to Modern Detour, where I review a work that has not yet survived or may never survive the test of time. In other words, I am trying to read some books that have been published in the last twenty years. I have a tendency to read nothing but classics, so picking up a non-classical work is a personal challenge that I would like to overcome. If I choose to read a book because of a review that I read on another blog, I will link to that blog in my review of that work.
I went to my university’s library last week, and was in the process of looking for a book on comics, when I came across The New Adventures of Sinbad the Sailor by Salim Bachi (2012). I liked the cover art, so I quickly searched for the book on Amazon. To my surprise, I discovered that no one had reviewed it yet. In fact, there were no reviews available anywhere online. Bachi has been shortlisted for the Pullitzer Prize for some of his other works, so I figured that the book that I was holding in my hand would be worth reading. The cover art along with the description on the back cover finally convinced me to borrow the work?
Here is the description that I read:
“One Thousand and One Nights’s Sinbad the Sailor is reborn as a young, adventurous man in modern day Algeria, who has joined the waves of North African immigration into Europe. Accompanied by a mysterious mongrel and his Senegalese friend Robinson, this lover of women and beauty embarks on a journey around the Mediterranean from Algiers to Damascus, passing through Rome, Paris, Baghdad, through the refugee camps and the deceitful glimmer of the Western world that takes him on a headlong pursuit of happiness and love. It is the story of a man coming to grips with the stark realities of war within the framework of legend.” – Pushkin Press
I must preface this review by admitting that I do not know the story of the original Sinbad in One Thousand and One Nights. If I had, I may have been able to understand the legendary figures in the story, like the Sleeper and the Dog (the Demiurge). That being said, the writing style as well as the character of Sinbad were a real turn-off. Sinbad is an Algerian refugee who travels the world in search of love and “exotic” items such as Moroccan leather. He reads a lot, and never ceases to compare himself to such literary figures as Odysseus, Sinbad the Sailor, and Don Juan – even in bed.
There were way too many sex scenes in this work for my liking. The sex scenes eclipsed the social and political criticism found in the book. The eroticism was downright hilarious. Sinbad compares his appendage to a boat, a train, and a baguette. He has a knack for getting himself into some bizarre love affairs. Of course, this novella is supposed to be a critique of French and Arabic society. There is some of that, but the countless references to literary characters along with Sinbad’s detailed account of his sexual escapades, make the philosophical passages of the work seem out of place. When Sinbad is not in the embraces of a woman, he is thinking deep philosophical thoughts. I often forgot that he was a refugee; Sinbad doesn’t undergo too many serious hardships except being busted for sleeping with a man’s wife, having his money stolen by a hooker, and some brief references to war. The novella read like erotic fiction for literary scholars.
I give this work a 1/5 rating.