The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Yasmina Khadra’s novel The Attack set off a firestorm of debate at book club. The novel follows the journey of Muslim surgeon Amin Jaafari, a naturalized citizen of Tel Aviv. He shares his life with the love of his life, Sihem. It isn’t giving anything away to say that Amin’s wife turns out to be a suicide bomber, detonating herself in the middle of a restaurant filled with school children. The novel then follows Amin’s journey from denial and disbelief to acceptance, if not of his wife’s actions then at least of the motivation behind the attack.

I didn’t like the book. The problem for me is that the character of Sihem is never humanzied. She is “the creature I loved most in the world.” Anything we learn about her, we learn through the eyes of the extremeists with whom she had aligned herself behind her husband’s back. He doesn’t understand and neither did I. Mostly I felt as though I was getting a lecture about the very messy and complicated and, clearly, emotional landscape of the Middle East.

Still, the book led to a great, and often heated, discussion- if that’s your thing.

Read reviews
Interview with the author

MY QUESTIONS
1. Amin Jaafari has almost completed assimilated into life in Tel Aviv. How important is it to assimilate when living in a foreign land.

2. Talk about the book’s opening. Did it intrigue you or confuse you? How does the book’s ending clarify its beginning?

3. How would this book been different if Amin had not been the narrator?

4. Are there any circumstances under which you could understand a suicide bomber? Explain.

FOOD

LA BETE NOIRE

Cake
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped 6 large eggs

Ganache
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.

Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.

For ganache:
Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

Makes 16 servings.

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