“Your first mistake is your last one... we kill our children if they make it." A harsh, inhuman rule to follow, but that’s how arms dealers live their lives. Author Gehad Abou Hashish sheds light on the life of a Palestinian youngster who grew up to be one of them; a destiny for him that was not expected, but could be perhaps predicted when we see how he drew his characters in his novel “God’s Wolf.”
The title gives the impression that we will read about some sort of hero. But Awad El-Baz is anything but that. Born stricken to settle a vendetta between two Palestinian clans, Awad grows up in a hateful environment towards his mother her and ends up killing her.
His grandmother's influence on the crime is obvious. Escaping into the camps of the fedayeen to avoid prison time, Awad witnesses the treason of Aylool El-Aswad in 1970, in which the Jordanian king slaughtered Palestinian fighters in defense of his throne.
For killing his mother Awad ends up in prison, where he meets the biggest Palestinian arms dealer, eventually earning his trust. Awad is offered a place at the table. He refuses at first, but in a few years he saw that he has no other way to make a decent living.
He becomes a sleeper cell arms dealer. Operating out of a storage facility and furtively passing the merchandise to buyers so as not to get caught, Awad realizes that many of his clients are Israelis aiming to guarantee the safety of the Jewish state. The realization does not stir him from his lucrative business.
His most lucrative deal is with the Islamist faction that bombed three Jordanian hotels. The deal leads him eventually to become some sort of religious figure in his village.
This is a clear allusion to how Islamist movements are in bed with Israel, a relationship that has been proven over and over through many intelligence cases in the Palestinian occupied territories.
In illustrating the character, Gehad Abou Hashish show us a violent person who beats his wives and enjoys them sadistically and dominantly, yet when he meets the Israeli female agent he accepts her sexual domination. A clear political symbolism on how the Arab rulers deal with their people versus how that deal with Israel.
The novel takes place in the ambiguous spaces of the underground Palestinian struggle, for example prison cells, an unfamiliar territory for many readers. This heightens readers' curiosity to read into the endless Palestinian/Israeli conflict -- certainly among the purposes of the novel.
The precise and concise writing style is admirable. Gehad is capable of making a mosaic of characters, narrators and events that end up in a beautifully artistic novel that deserves a second read. The use of multiple narrators indicates that the writer believes that the truth has many faces, especially when the Israeli agent tells her story.
The ending of the story is in conformity of the “just punishment” theory. The arms dealer does not get to live happily ever after or die either. The ending is a surprise since the whole time the reader is rooting for Awad without sympathy.
The title “God’s Wolf” is a combination of the lone wolf character and the religious phase that he impersonates towards the end of the novel. We don’t see really any friends of Awad, all the male characters are marginal, on the other hand the female characters are present strongly with insights on their psyche and how each of them react to Awad in their own capacities.
The main criticism of the novel is that all the characters are flat, they do not develop in spite of the many events that can lead to that. Opportunities for development in the narration are many, but they just grow up without evolving. Certainly, still, Abou Hashish's book is an informing novel that deserves an attentive reading.