The year is 1970, a period of identity crisis in the Arab world. Hisham, the young hero of Adama, is now a university student in the big city, Riyadh. He expands his intellect by day and pursues heady, forbidden pleasures by night, indulging in arak, cigarettes and an illicit affair with his neighbour Sarah, a bold young housewife.
Meanwhile, Hisham's disillusioned childhood friend Adnan abandons his artistic ambitions in favour of a loftier cause, Islamism. The two friends grow apart, ultimately becoming strangers to each other. They come to symbolise the opposite extremes of life in a repressive closed society.
Eventually, Hisham's world becomes untenable as he can no longer reconcile his studious days and licentious nights. This contradictions plunges him into intense turmoil and self-loathing, until his past catches up with him, with surprising consequences . . .
Adama, the first volume of his best-selling trilogy about his native Saudi Arabia, was published in English by Saqi in 2003. Shumaisi is the second volume of the trilogy, which ends with Karadib.
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Abd al-Karim Abd al-Rahman Abu Hisham Abu Muhammad Abu Salih Adnan afternoon Ahmad alley Alyan Arabs arak beautiful began Beirut beside body bottle calm cigarette cold colonel Dammam desk despite door drank drinking everything eyes face fear feeling finished friends front Gamal Abdel-Nasser glanced glass of tea greeting Hamad hand head heart Hisham felt Hisham smiled Hisham took Hisham's father inside Jeddah kissed knew laughed leave lecture looked at Hisham lust Marxism mind mosque mother Moudhi mouth muezzin Muhammad and Dais Muhanna Muhaysin Nasser Nejd never night Nizar Qabbani Noura opened organisation passport pleasure poured prayers quickly Qur'an Raqiyya replied returned Riyadh riyal saying shut silence sipped sitting room smell smoke soon stay stomach stopped street suddenly Suwayr tajwid talking tears things thought threw told tray tried turned uncle voice waiting walked wanted What's window women