December 22, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Sunny 16°C
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Fiction

The Unknown Quantity

Hermann Broch's novel of the life and times of a 1920s mathematician is sadly overlooked.

Can't and Won't

Lydia Davis has a problem: she can't not display her ingenious bravura.

Open City

What's most impressive about Teju Cole's debut is its modulated darkness.

Never Love a Gambler

Irish writer Keith Ridgway is beautifully uncompromising in his pitch-perfect thug chronicles.

Scenes From Village Life

Amos Oz's interlocking stories are parables for a brilliant, haunted nation.

The Third Policeman

Irishman Flan O'Brien managed to introduce Disney to Swift in a comic vision of death.

Leaving the Atocha Station

Ben Lerner's 2011 debut set a fine tone for postmodern irony, but it grows repetitive.

The Underground Man

Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer endures as a detective ahead of his time.

The Laughing Monsters

Denis Johnson's novel of spies in Africa falls well short of its Graham Greene-Le Carré mark.

Nonfiction

The Book of My Lives

Aleksandar Hemon's poignant memoir falters when family tragedy becomes its focus.




BOOK REVIEW
Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden
By Osama bin Laden, edited and introduced by Bruce Lawrence; translated by James Howarth
Verso Books, 2005. 292 pages

Months before the invasion of Iraq, bin Laden offered this advice to enemies of radical Islam: “Pack your luggage and get out of our lands. We desire this only for your goodness, guidance, and righteousness, so do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins.”

This, at first, was mocked.

There’s more: “Guantanamo is a historical embarrassment to America and its values, and screams into your hypocritical faces…”

This, at first, was discounted.

The unsettling part of reading zealots, in black hats or white, is their rational sensibility. Bin Laden is nothing if not PR-wise: “You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them.” He sounds at times like a Baptist preacher. What distinguishes bin Laden’s rhetoric is its ascent into militancy, which is gradual.

Saudi Arabia, his homeland, is the flashpoint. “The place of revelation,” he insists, is occupied by Christians and their lackeys. “A gloomy scenario,” he adds ruefully. Bin Laden began publishing his warnings in 1994. No one bothered assembling them until 2005 — in Britain, not the United States. The roots of 9/11, the book makes clear, are political and strategic, an ambitious move in a lurid chess game. “You fight, so you exist,” he says, redirecting Descartes. This is an important, highly lucid volume.

Reviewed by Book Staff
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