Throwing Sparks

Throwing Sparks

Author: Abdo Khal

Publishing House: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Year: 2012

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 368

Throwing Sparks by Saudi author Abdo Khal, published in 2010 and winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction that year is a dark and gripping tale set against the backdrop of Jeddah’s mysterious palaces. The novel explores dehumanization and corruption in an ostensibly affluent society, symbolizing the stark contrast between wealth and poverty. The story unfolds through the confessions of a man employed in one of these enigmatic palaces, providing “special services” to its wealthy owner. This includes the sexual assault of the businessman’s enemies, recorded for his twisted pleasure.

Khal portrays the palace as a stage for decay, corruption, and evil, housing corrupt businessmen, prostitutes, and morally bankrupt individuals. “Throwing Sparks” gives a voice to the marginalized, showcasing characters rarely seen in the spotlight – wretched, disfigured, almost destitute figures that offer a stark contrast to the expected norms of a society known for its wealth and conservative spirit. The novel metaphorically lifts the luxurious carpets to reveal the filth swept underneath, undiminished by the palace’s splendid décor or overpowering scents.

Translators Maia Tabet and Michael Scott translated the novel into English, and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing published it in 2012. The story centers around Tariq, a young man from a poor neighborhood near an opulent palace in Jeddah. He faces a harrowing reality as he serves the enigmatic and morally corrupt Master of the palace. A harrowing reality awaits him as he serves the enigmatic and morally corrupt Master of the palace.

Tariq’s role involves perpetrating unspeakable acts against the Master’s enemies, leading him down a path of enslavement and moral conflict. Torn between his tasks, his love for Maram, the Master’s mistress, and his brother’s pleas to return home, Tariq realizes the grim truth of his existence and contemplates the only way out.

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