Is this a mystery novel, a spoof on a mystery novel, an intellectual fantasy, or a sophisticated post-modern game? Chaim Tadmon's surprisingly original book turns famous writer Salman Rushdie, a native of India, into an imaginary Iranian-born literary hero. After the death sentence pronounced by the ayatollahs in Teheran for supposedly desecrating the holy principles of Islam, Rushdie hides in Paris in the Hotel Quatre Fleurs, disguised as a religious Jew who has fled from Iran. He spends time in his room writing and thinking, but he also wanders through the streets of Paris, eventually striking up a relationship with a rabbi from North Africa. The plot takes place in Paris and Teheran, and Tadmon uses great imagination and refined humor to describe the conspiracy underway in Teheran to assassinate the writer. The head of the secret police assigns the task to a young Mullah, but fails to supply him with sufficient information. The religious fanatics in Iran do not actually want to kill the writer. The true purpose is to fool the West and camouflage their true plot: mass destruction of those who reject Islam using lethal biological warfare.
The young, innocent Mullah arrives in Paris and settles into the room next to the writer, unaware that his neighbor, the pleasant Persian Jew, is the target of his plans. Rushdie, cognizant of his new neighbor's mission, becomes very friendly with him.
The book's essence is in its bold and complex examination of basic human tenets such as liberty vs. slavery, culture and aesthetics vs. the darkness of religious fanaticism, life vs. death. This book is unique in its examination of a man constantly aware that death awaits him and how this knowledge affects his life. A complex relationship of inter-dependence develops between the potential assassin and his designated victim. Perhaps the murderer is not a realistic independent figure, but rather a literary invention that exists only in Rushdie's mind? The novel is bursting with signals and insinuations that constantly remind the reader of the fun behind the story, as if woven from ornate Persian miniatures that come together in a perfect pattern.
Tadmon has written a very interesting and thought-provoking book that is both aesthetically and intellectually very pleasing.
A rare gem that apparently has a reserved place in the front line of literature. This is a very human book, full of strong images, sensitive (often comical) perceptions. The book formulates wisely the tense situation between victim and potential killer.
Critic Menahem Perry