RaveThe GuardianKhalifa is a soulful and perfectly unsentimental writer. This helps fortify his work against glib resolutions and make it more wildly ready for life’s raw light and that unrelenting human desire to live it. Notwithstanding its title, his fifth novel is more about life than death. Leri Price, who has translated Khalifa before, is alive and faithful to the Syrian’s unadorned and direct prose, sentences that often bring together the poetic and the horrific ... A civil war is a national tragedy, but it is also, and perhaps most poignantly, a personal trial. The most amazing thing about this book is that it managed to exist, that it came to us out of the fire with its pages intact. It is robust in its doubts, humane in its gaze and gentle in its persistence.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] remarkably revealing book ... a deeply honest and brave portrait of an individual sensibility reckoning with her country’s violent role in the world ... Notes on a Foreign Country is a sincere and intelligent act of self-questioning. It is a political and personal memoir that negotiates that vertiginous distance that exists between what America is and what it thinks of itself. That dramatic, dizzying and lonesome chasm is Hansen’s terrain ... Hansen is doing something both rare and necessary; she is tracing the ways in which we are all born into histories, into national myths and, if we are unfortunate enough, into the fantasies of an empire. She traces the ways in which 'Americans were in active denial of their empire even as they laid its foundations.' She is interested in and does well to expose the machinery — the propaganda, the economic authoritarianism, the military might, the manipulative diplomacy, the myriad aid agencies and NGOs — that made this possible ... The tone is at once adamant and intimate. This is a book that is spoken softly rather than screamed; and one senses that it took great personal discipline to be so. In fact, what is admirable is the extent to which Hansen implicates herself. She does this soberly and without self-pity. She is, to herself, independent but by no means innocent ... The problem, however — and it is a problem to do with conversion — is that it is assumed that the question is one of persuasion. If only America were like Hansen: disquieted, self-analytic and imaginative. Perhaps, in other words, Americans know that they feel superior and are quite content with their superiority. Perhaps their naïveté, if that is what it is, is not as deep as Hansen imagines; perhaps they are aware of the myth of themselves and have simply decided it is too useful a myth to give up.