I have been meaning to find, buy, and read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel for quite some time, but I had never done so; in part because of my tendency to remember things exactly when I am in no position to do anything about them, and in part because I knew it would be painful to read, that it’s a first-person narrative that contains things that are at once awful, horrifying, and true.
Today I saw it in a bookshop window and immediately veered inside and bought it. I knew it would be painful and intense to read, so I figured it would be one of those rare books that I would take a long time to read, maybe even weeks. This proved not to be the case; although I had a length interruption earlier this evening, there was no way I could go to bed before I finished it (and, it seems, no way I could go to bed before telling the world about it, here).
Of course it had terrible and painful things, and parts that were difficult to read, but it was more, far more, than a tragic narrative; it was engaging, it was terrifically well written; it contained not one iota of self-pity and nary a trace of resentment, but empathy and sympathy and insight and amounts of courage that are beyond the power of superlatives to describe.
Reading it, I came across sections I wanted to quote here—painful ones, powerful ones, awe-inspiring ones, ones filled with hope—but as is the case with truly great books, there’s just too much to quote; I should have to quote half the book or feel that a section torn out of context would do terrible injustice to the book as a whole.
You will cringe, you will cry,