Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Advanced Reader's Copy Review:
The night I began reading Richard Jackson's Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel, I didn't stop before finishing a third of it, it was difficult to put it down. Part of this is the style, it is written in the format of a Top Secret transcription of an audio or video recording of an interrogation of a MI5 agent and a terrorist/militant. There are no chapter breaks, so it's easy to just keep right on reading and the content makes it hard to simply close it and put it down.
Jackson, with this novel, seeks to shake up his readers' preconceptions and notions concerning those labeled as terrorists by the media. That seems to be one of his few aims: to show that those so quickly tagged as terrorists are human beings, having people they love, who love them; and who want people to hear them. Jackson writes: “I have rarely found artistic or media depictions of terrorists that seemed authentic or which corresponded to the completely normal, often intelligent, complex and committed people I had personally spoken to” (319). He presents the terrorist in this light; i.e. the opposite of the way they are usually presented in films and the media.
The author wants to put the readers in the room during the interrogation, to help them ask tough questions. Jackson lives up to his goal, stated on the jacket copy, to blur the line between the interrogator and the terrorist. There are passages that could catch readers nodding their heads in agreement and then, catch them feeling a twinge of guilt for doing so.
I read that it is in the style of Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I agree with that in that it is a story that takes place in an intense conversation between two characters: one a Westerner, the other a suspected terrorist. There the similarity breaks down. Jackson's novel is presented as a trascript (as I've already stated), with anotations by those higher up the chain of command; annotations that the fictional authority writes to convince others to expunge parts of the recording and the transcription to cover their collective backsides. Jackson recommends those who are inclined, should try to find as much information as they can, and to talk to militants, if possible.
If you enjoyed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, or are interested in a different perspective view on the issue of terrorists and their behavior, I highly recommend this novel. The author writes, “A novel like this is a small step, but a necessary one, to tearing down the veil of ignorance which currently lies over most of what we currently say and do about terrorism” (322). He also includes a suggested reading list for those interested in knocking down that “veil of ignorance.” I plan to re-read this novel, and to work my way through Jackson's "Recommended Reading" list on terrorism and terrorists.
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Get the Kindle version, here (the hardcopy is due out 3 June 2014):
Confessions of a Terrorist