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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Teeth of the Comb

Osama Alomar

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Teeth of the Comb

Title: The Teeth of the Comb
Author: Osama Alomar
Genre: Stories
Written: (Eng. 2017)
Length: 125 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: The Teeth of the Comb - US
The Teeth of the Comb - UK
The Teeth of the Comb - Canada
  • & Other Stories
  • Translated by the author and C.J.Collins

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice variety of short and ultra-short stories

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY TImes Book Rev. . 21/5/2017 Lincoln Michel
Publishers Weekly . 13/2/2017 .
World Lit. Today . 5-8/2017 Yahia Lababidi

  From the Reviews:
  • "If Kafka had rewritten Aesopís fables, the result might have looked like this thought-provoking new collection of literary allegories and aphorisms. (...) Timely and timeless, The Teeth of the Comb is a masterly collection by an urgent literary voice." - Lincoln Michel, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Philosophical and subversive, these tiny parables deconstruct human failings with a keen insight. (...) Alomarís writing brims with hope, and this slim volume is full of compassion and depth." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Despite their apparent playful wit, Alomarís deceptively slight short stories have teeth and bite. In spare, accessible prose, one encounters the painful and bitter poetry of exile running like a blood-red thread through this slim but dense collection of flash fiction" - Yahia Lababidi, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Teeth of the Comb collects well over a hundred stories by Osama Alomar, many only a paragraph or even just a sentence long, with only a few longer than a single page.
       Much of this 'flash' fiction consists of allegories, and they often feature inanimate objects ("The fingernail clipping looked up at the crescent moon with sadness") or even abstractions ("The Second World War said proudly to her colleague the First"). Many are political -- and often very broad:

     The dictator sneezed. He pulled Freedom from his pants pocket and blew his nose. Then he threw her away in the wastebasket.
       Alomar finds appealing juxtapositions in language and meaning -- one story begins: "I climbed up the psychological barrier that separated me from a high functionary, but I fell and broke my leg" -- and uses the familiar, or even obvious, effectively in tales with otherwise unexpected premises:
     I asked the hurricane about his goal. He answered me in fright: "If only I knew !"
     As for the stream, he sparkled in gentle bliss, knowing perfectly well where he was going.
       Mostly, Alomar is at his best in succinct construction, when he can present his story as simply as possible -- the well-turned reduction into one or a few sentences. He manages this well throughout the collection -- so that the pieces he couldn't minimize more effectively generally stand out as overexplained: 'The Door' is similarly clever to many of the pieces, but defies the simpler, more elegant presentation he manages elsewhere (as Alomar also chooses not to expand on it, the other alternative here):
     Every day just before seeping, he would make sure to go through the procedure to lock the door of the house. But after long years he discovered that he had been forgetting to do the same thing for the door of his soul in order to prevent dangerous and destructive thoughts from entering.
       Doubly provocative -- both in the unusual inventions, such as sentient objects and creatures, as well as their often politically charged messages -- the stories impress, as memorable pictures, turns, ideas.
       There's a pleasing subversiveness to much of this too, in his treatment of realism (stretched and distorted) and undertones -- not necessarily subtle -- of politics. Alomar focuses on (near-)universals, rather than the specific in his pieces, the traits and issues he addresses broadly familiar, making the tales essentially timeless and universal -- even as Alomar's Syrian background and that nation's recent history and present-day conditions inevitably seeps into the reader's interpretation of many of the texts.
       Enjoyable and also thought-provoking and -prodding, Alomar's stories are appealingly turned and twisted, and The Teeth of the Comb a worthwhile collection.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 May 2017

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The Teeth of the Comb: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Arabic literature

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About the Author:

       Osama Alomar (أسامة الحويج العمر) was born in Syria in 1968. He now lives in the US.

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© 2017 the complete review

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