Fritz Agency
Published by
Weidenfeld & Nicolson (August 2015)
Current material
Fiction: general & literary


by Aboulela, Leila

Alternating between Scotland, 2010, and the Caucasus mountains of the 19th Century, fascinating thematic lines are drawn connecting the world we live in and what history has borne in the past. First we meet Imam Shamil, the legendary leader of the Muslim tribes of the Northern Caucasus who became the head of the anti-Russian resistance in the 19th century's Caucasian War. As the Russian Empire pushed the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire and Persia, Shamil lead the last unification of Caucasian nations that fought desperately to resist Tsarist rule.

Switching to contemporary Scotland, here we meet Shamil's descendants, modern-day Muslims who occupy a broad spectrum of thought when it comes to religious beliefs, the meaning of "jihad", and how much one should and could assimilate into "traditional" British society. The heart of this story is Natasha – half Russian, half Sudanese – a professor of Islamic studies whose own personal history evokes the highs and lows of Islam's relationship with other cultures throughout recorded time. These two narratives inform, enhance, and challenge each other, resulting in a highly-accomplished, multi-layered novel that takes our ideas, shakes them up, and helps us reach a better understanding of both history and the world as we currently know it.

Leila Aboulela was born in Cairo and grew up in Khartoum. All three of her previous novels, The Translator, Minaret and Lyrics Alley, were longlisted for the Orange Prize. Lyrics Alley won Novel of the Year at the Scottish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, while Aboulela's collection of short fiction, Coloured Lights, won the Caine Prize. She has also been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

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A richly imagined novel about a half-Russian, half-Sudanese professor whose studies of a 19th-century Muslim leader become a portal into his world. The story alternates between two narratives: his in the Caucasus Mountains of the 1830s and hers in the present day.

Review: Travel + Leisure

Aboulela, winner of the Caine Prize, pens an ambitious tri-continental story covering more than 200 years and tackling themes of Islamic faith, personal heritage, and the disparity between academic and personal reconstructions of historic events...a nuanced story of identity and sense of place

Review: Publishers Weekly

A rich, multilayered story, a whole syllabus of compelling topics. As a novelist, Aboulela moves confidently between dramatizing urgent, contemporary issues and providing her audience with sufficient background to follow these discussions about the changing meaning of jihad, the history of Sufism and the racial politics of the war on terror.


Review: The Washington Post

Aboulela seamlessly moves between 2010 Scotland and the stories set in the nineteenth century and shows how complex geopolitical processes can lead to unlikely astute exploration of the fluidity of identity that proves just how ineffective a check-the-boxes approach to the issue can truly be.

Review: Booklist

Aboulela makes it clear not only that the current conflict between East and West has old roots, but also that "East" and "West" are little more than convenient fictions. . . . . Aboulela is a great storyteller, and she writers with clarity and elegance. A pleasurable and engaging read for fans of both contemporary and historical fiction.

Review: Kirkus Reviews

The Millions and Brooklyn Magazine highlighted THE KINDNESS OF ENEMIES as one of the titles to read for January 2016, and Amazon picked it as one of its "Best Book of the Month” and The Guardian selected it as one of its "Best Books of 2015”.

Media coverage: Client

In this remarkable and highly suspenseful novel Leila Aboulela moves back and forth between contemporary Scotland, where everyone is on the watch for terrorism, and nineteenth century Russia, where Iman Shamil is fighting for his freedom. The Kindness of Enemies is a wonderful evocation of faith and fate and what it means to be an outsider. -- Margot Livesey

Quote: Blurb

USA: Grove/Atlantic; Holland: De Geus; Turkey: Pegasus; Poland: Remi Katarzyna

Foreign licence: Client

An absorbing novel 'The Kindness of Enemies' reminds us of the complexity of the web woven by those threads of faith, nationality, politics and history.

Review: The New York Times Book Review

Aboulela challenges readers with thought-provoking ideas about the meaning of jihad,then and now, and demonstrates how ignorance of another's beliefs prohibits us from embracing our common humanity.

Review: Library Journal

Leila Aboulela's The Kindness of Enemies...recreates the fascinating story of the rebel of the Caucasus, Imam Samil, a 19th-century warrior who battled to defend his home against the invading Russians and united the Muslims of the region under his iconic leadership. Weaving the story of his relationship with a Georgian princess he kidnapped into a more contemporary story of mistaken terrorism, we learn much about the nature of loss, the legacy of exile, and the meaning of home at a time in our world when all three are high in our minds. ( Mariella Forstrup, The Guardian Best Books of 2015)

Review: The Guardian

A versatile prose stylist... [Aboulela's] lyrical style and incisive portrayal of Muslims living in the West received praise from the Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee... [she is] a voice for multiculturalism.

Review: The New York Times

There is a tremendous amount going on in The Kindness of Enemies — but it does not crowd the reader. Rather, it hums in hushed and meditative tones through prisoners of war in historic and contemporary fantasy rooted in reality.


Review: The Los Angeles Times

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