Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif

Red Birds

Mohammed Hanif

Perhaps the wisest character is the dog, spared humanity's ridiculous and fatal compulsion to misunderstand, categorise, bomb and rationalise. In the generic but so familiar war-scape of mission targets, fake reporting, refugee camp, inappropriate aid and inexplicable disappearances, it is not surprising that the borderline between the characters being alive or dead becomes blurred. Your cynicism and black humour levels will be topped up equally.


As I lifted my leg, unknown to me, about eight hundred miles away the gates of a dam, the largest earth-filled dam in the world, opened. According to conservative estimates about six million cusecs of river water, monsoon muddy, wild and foamy, dropped like a native Niagara onto the eight waiting turbines, each weighing more than thirty tons of metal and blades. As the turbines span the generators converted it into the electricity that the Camp had been waiting on for years; the electricity travelled through eight-gauge, substandard copper wires and, travelling at the speed of 1,860,000 miles per second, arrived at the pole exactly at the moment when my clear, healthy urine made contact with it. Of course the bastards had forgotten to earth the pole, as they were sure from their past experiences that this whole pole-wire-transformers business was just a showpiece to steal more money. But someone had a bout of seasonal goodwill and released the electricity. It travelled through my piss stream through my blood veins and straight to my brains. This is how my brains got fried.

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Castle by Franz Kafka
  • The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare

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