GUANTANAMO: Dorothea Dieckman; Translated by V.K. Sharafudheen; Green Books Private Limited, Ayyanthole, Thrissur-680003. Rs. 100.

Guantanamo is a chilling and extraordinary novel about the institutionalised torture cell of the United States in Cuba set up in 2002 for detainees picked from the warfront in Afghanistan and later Iraq. Based on meticulous research, the novel gives a graphic description of the brutalities perpetrated in the Camp.

At the beginning of the Afghan war, young Rashid, born in Hamburg to an Indian father and a German mother, travels to India to seek some inheritance. He develops friendship with a young Afghan and goes on a sight-seeing visit to Peshawar. Accidentally, he gets into an anti-American demonstration and is arrested and handed over to the U.S. officials. Ultimately, he finds himself in the infamous Camp Guantánamo.

The novel narrates, in six short chapters, the different phases of Rashid's life in the Camp, bringing out the physical pain, mental agony, diminishing consciousness, and mental disorientation he suffers. The narrative takes the form of Rashid responding to questions during interrogation. As the grilling intensifies, he almost forgets why he travelled to Peshawar and, thanks to the horrifying experience in the Camp, invents lies to please the interrogators. Eventually, he resigns himself to the harsh reality that there was no question of his being released. The portrayal of his harrowing experience is so telling that the reader is virtually made to share the trauma of existential isolation and psychotic oppression of the worst kind. The translation is good and true to the original.

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