Echoes of a Fairy Tale in a Disastrous Novel


Omar Al Akkad’s new novel, “What a strange heaven,” Uses some fictional techniques to comment on the migrant crisis caused by the war in the Middle East. El Akkad explains that he thinks of the novel as a reinterpretation of the story of Peter Pan, told as the story of a contemporary child refugee.

“This is what Borges once said about how all literature is tricks, and no matter how clever your tricks, they are eventually discovered,” says El Akkad. “My moves aren’t particularly clever. I lean heavily on the inversion. I wanted to take a comforting story that Westerners have been telling their kids for the past hundred years, and I wanted to reverse it, To tell a different kind of story.” He continues: “At its core, it’s a book about dual fantasies: the fantasies of people who want to come to the West because they think it’s the cure for all ills. and the imaginations of those who exist in the West and think of those people. People as barbarians at the gate. The book takes place when those two fantasies collide.”

Shira Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, two journalists from The Times, visit this week’s podcast to discuss their new book, “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Supremacy,” This includes how the company makes many of its strategic decisions.

“Many people think that a company like this, which is so sophisticated, with so many people who have come up with such incredible pedigree, that they have a plan in mind,” Kang says. “They’re actually, in many cases, doing this on the fly. They’re making a lot of ad-hoc decisions.”

Also in this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks at the history of Book Review as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; And Emily Eakins and MJ Franklin talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We Are Reading”:

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this episode and the book review podcast in general. you can send them books@nytimes.com.



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