In November 2001, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was arrested and later imprisoned as a suspected terrorist by the U.S. government in Guantánamo Bay, where he languished for 14 years despite no charges ever being brought against him. Penned while in detention, his memoir's original publication in 2015 was heavily redacted by the government, while the restored edition fills in blacked out text recounting Slahi's experiences—including torture—in Guantánamo.
Guantánamo Diary is the most profound account yet written of what it is like to be...collateral damage ... Written in the colloquial if limited English [Slahi] picked up during his captivity...the work is a kind of dark masterpiece, a sometimes unbearable epic of pain, anguish and bitter humor that the Dostoyevsky of The House of the Dead would have recognized and embraced. At its root is a maddening ambiguity born of a system governed not by any recognizable rules of evidence or due process but by suspicion, paranoia and violence ... Slahi’s memoirs are filled with numbingly absurd exchanges that could have been lifted whole cloth from [Kafka's] The Trial ... America has crossed a gulf. The steps that took us there were largely secret, but thanks to this and other accounts we know about them now: We know where we came from, and we know where we are. We do not yet know how to get back.
Enter the handwritten diary of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Guantanamo detainee...a fluent, engaging and at times eloquent writer, even in his fourth language, English ... For those already convinced by the grim details contained in the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report about the CIA’s treatment of detainees, it is important to emphasize that Slahi’s book adds materially to what that report revealed ... Most important, and unlike the Senate report, Slahi’s book offers a first-person account of the experience of torture. For that reason alone, the book is necessary reading for those seeking to understand the dangers that Guantanamo’s continued existence poses to Americans in the world. At the same time, all diary readers must grapple with the claustrophobic nature of the genre.
Guantánamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s extraordinary account of rendition, captivity and torture reveals, more vividly than any book in the previous decade of shock-and-awe ferocity, how he and countless other men became victims of a profound sense of individual and collective emasculation ... Slahi’s catalogue of physical and verbal cruelty underscores the desperation in their many attempts to re-establish absolute superiority ... by far the most intimate account of post 9/11 radicalization—not of Muslims, rather of a significant swathe of the American military-intellectual complex. To read about Slahi’s repetitive and futile brutalizing is to shed the comforting illusion that the most vehement partisans of holy war flourish in the ravaged landscapes of south and west Asia. Such fanatics, who can be atheists as well as crusaders and jihadists, also lurk among the US’s best and the brightest, emboldened by an endless supply of money, arms and even 'ideas' supplied by terrorism experts and clash-of-civilizations theorists.