Stoning the Devil
Garry Craig Powell
Stoning the Devil is a novel set in the United Arab Emirates, a country of paradoxes, of seediness and glamour, of desert grandeur and Disneyland vulgarity, where public executions and other barbaric customs are winked at by the western expats who run the economy. Colin, a professor of literature, is not the ‘typical’ expat, ignorant and interested only in pleasure and his stock portfolio, but a speaker of Arabic and an admirer of Arab culture – or is he? To his Arab wife, he is an Orientalist who exoticizes and patronises the locals, unaware of his latent racism. Powell presents a complex and contradictory set of Arab characters, who are a far cry from fundamentalist stereotypes. He also gives women in the Gulf a voice –as none are completely submissive.
Garry Craig Powell delivers a powerful novel-in-stories and perhaps the first work of literary fiction set in the Persian Gulf by a westerner since Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. It echoes all the concerns of the great Arab writers, Mahfouz, Munif, and Kanafani regarding the post-colonial world. Written by an author that spent a good deal of time in that part of the world, the Gulf is presented as a crucible in which people of different races and religions are forging a new humanity, in spite of the abysses between them.
“Stoning the Devil is a mesmerizing read. You will not find another book like this one. Garry Craig Powell has an astonishing ability to create characters with swift and haunting power. His intricately linked stories travel to the dark side of human behaviour without losing essential tenderness or desire for meaning and connection. They are unpredictable and wild. Is this book upsetting? Will it make some people mad? Possibly. But you will not be able to put it down.”
– Naomi Shihab Nye
“The astounding characters that recur in Garry Craig Powell’s Stoning the Devil are no different than, say, Sherwood Anderson’s characters in Winesburg, Ohio. These characters have needs and dreams. They have their share of existential moments. They’re all doing the best they can. These linked stories are utterly mesmerizing and exotic. With a keen ear for dialogue, and a sensibility of the best Conrad, Kipling, Orwell and Achebe, Garry Craig Powell has pulled off a masterful feat.”
– George Singleton, Stray Decorum
Born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Garry Craig Powell was quite the seasoned nomad before he became a writer: “Not until I was in my forties did I really dedicate my life to fiction. I’d wanted to be a writer since reading Wuthering Heights at the age of sixteen – an unusual inspiration for a working-class English boy – and started writing as an undergraduate at Cambridge. For two decades, I travelled and taught. I lived in Spain and Poland for periods of less than a year, Portugal for ten years, and the United Arab Emirates for eight years. I played semi-professionally in a band. I visited Africa and the Far East, trekked in the Himalayas, and scoured Europe on a ‘savage pilgrimage’ reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence’s.”
Powell has since settled in the USA, in Conway, Arkansas, where he now teaches creative writing as an Associate Professor at the University of Central Arkansas, and writes fiction.