koolaids

The latest addition to my website is Rabih Alameddine‘s Koolaids. This is a first-class novel about two forgotten (according to the author) wars: the The Lebanese Civil War and the involvement in that war of Syria and Israel, and the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The book has multiple narrators who, in a series of vignettes, describe the two wars. Most of the main characters end up dead, either from AIDS-related diseases or from bombs or bullets in Lebanon. This could have been a very sad novel of death and destruction and, certainly, to some degree it is. But Alameddine takes an often cynical point of view, gallows humour, if you will. Not only do we get first-hand accounts from various key characters, we get a playlet featuring, amongst others, Eleanor Roosevelt, Arjuna, Krishnamurti, Julio Cortázar, and Tom Cruise. We get the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse having a go at one another. But we also get the author’s cynical and witty attacks on those to blame: the drug companies for the AIDS crisis and Syria, Israel, the Phalange and other participants for the situation in Lebanon. This book is both funny and heart-rending. Above all, it is an excellent account of two forgotten wars by a man who knew both.