One Hundred and One Nights
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One Hundred and One Nights by Benjamin Buchholz My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ben Buchholz is one of the most interesting new writers I've read in the past few years. He has a quality that I am hard put to define...it has to do with a poetic flair, and a just-out-of-my-grasp dreamy reality that reminds me of the various merits of writers like Joyce, Brautigan and Pynchon.
One Hundred and One Nights By Benjamin Buccholz (Back Bay Books, $13.99, 368 pages)
Army Maj. Benjamin Buchholz is pursuing a master’s degree in Near Eastern studies. Benjamin Buchholz GS spent a year during 2005–06 in the Iraqi village of Safwan as an Army civil-affairs officer with his Wisconsin National Guard unit.
After 13 years in America, Abu Saheeh has returned to his native Iraq, a nation transformed by the American military presence. Alone in a new city, he has exactly what he wants: freedom from his past. Then he meets Layla, a whimsical fourteen-year-old girl who enchants him with her love of American pop culture. Enchanted by Layla's stories and her company, Abu Saheeh settles into the city's rhythm and begins rebuilding his life.
When I opened my mail in January of 2011 and found the galley of One Hundred and One Nights and accompanying blurb request from Benjamin Buchholz’s editor at Little, Brown, I was almost comically surprised. I’d gotten maybe a dozen such appeals since publishing my first novel, Mudbound , every last one of them for books about farming and/or race relations in the Jim Crow South. This book was about the war in Iraq, and there wasn’t a dead mule in sight. The author, according to the jacket copy, was an American soldier who’d served in the war. That was enough for me, and I set it aside.
Benjamin Buchholz . One Hundred and One Nights . New York: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown, 2011 . 346 pp.; $13.99 paperback . ISBN: 9780316133777 After 13 years in America, Abu Saheeh has returned to his native Iraq, a nation transformed by the American military presence.
By Benjamin Buchholz (Back Bay Books, Paperback, 9780316133777, 368pp.) Publication Date: December 2011 Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Benjamin Buchholz served as a Civil Affairs Officer in Safwan, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. His nonfiction book Private Soldiers was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2007. His new novel is One Hundred and One Nights . A couple of weeks ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
One of the things that drew me to this book is that it is written by an American soldier—who was deployed to Iraq—but is narrated from an Iraqi perspective. This made me think about stories and whether or not a story can belong to a certain group. Can the Occupier ever really tell the story of the Occupied? In the author’s comments at the end of the book, he mentioned that narrating from an Iraqi perspective was an effort at empathy and understanding. I think it was an interesting choice that raises some difficult questions. The story takes place in a little town called Safwan located in Iraq near the border with Kuwait.
It isn’t very often, after reading a novel, that I want to know more about the person who wrote the story. In this case, I’m not sure which was more interesting – the book or the author. In writing this review, I snooped around the internet for a little background info on Ben Buchholz, the author of the book, One Hundred and One Nights. He was schooled to be a Foreign Affairs Officer, which brought him and his family to Oman in the Middle East.
Benjamin Buchholz served in southern Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard. His debut novel, One Hundred And One Nights ($13.99, Back Bay), is told from the perspective of an Iraqi. The impulse to write - both in general and in specific about the Middle East - catalyzed for me on the second day of my military service in Iraq when I responded to the death of a six-year-old Iraqi girl, crushed on the road by one of our military convoys a few hundred meters from the Kuwaiti border. Around this girl's blanketed body a crowd of perhaps two hundred people had gathered, not only Iraqis but also our young American troops, contracted drivers for the military convoy from various other countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, members of the local police and town council, and my very busy Kuwaiti interpreter.
ONE HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS Jan 11, 2012 ARCHIVES | Entertainment | COLUMNS Tweet Benjamin Buchholz Back Bay ISBN 978-0316133777 346 pages $13.99 Reviewed by Masha Hamilton, who is the author of four novels, most recently "31 Hours," and the founder of the Afghan Women's Writing Project and the Camel Book Drive.
The bottle of water thrown from a passing semitrailer truck attracted a little girl who desperately wanted it. It spun into the road. The tiny girl ran toward the prize, a treat for the kids who lined the road waiting for American convoys to rumble through day and night in the Iraqi border town of Safwan. But the girl didn't reach the water bottle in time.