Book review: Dødevaskeren

Sara Omar is one of Denmark´s new literary comets with minority background. Last year she released her debut "Dødevaskeren" which was an instant succsess. This tale of honour related violence and killings in a kurdish family context seemed to strike a nerve with its relentless frankness. Now the book is out in Norwegian.

The main character Frmesk is herself a victim of violence. As she lies on a hospital bed in Denmark haunting memories come by. We go back to Kurdistan in the 1980s as she thinks about her own life as an uwanted girl child. Her own father wanted to dispose of her, but she was rescued by her more humane grandmother as the threath was about to materialise. We hear of violent reprisals against women and children for slight mishaps, how Frmesk´s mother was harrassed sexually and violently by her husband. Killings happen as a response to unwanted love interests.

In Denmark this goes on, and Frmesk becomes a witness to murders. However, she is urged by fellow kurds not tell anything to the police, out of fear for reprisals. There is a tradition for blood feuds, it may seem. Underpinning the violence is a rigid and litteral attitude towards the Quran, or the parts of it that may serve as justification. Omar has said that her book is partly inspired by her own experiences. Like tha main charachter she has also been hospitalised when suffering from severe psychological traumas.

Omar has written a fluent and poingant book that hits hard. Some may wonder whether it paints a too negative picture of Kurdish people and culture and of Islam as a religion. Anyway, it is because of this harshness, the writer is nowadays living under police protection. Yet it may seem that many in Dansk Folkeparti may embrace this book for the wrong reasons. The book is well structured, gripping and thought provoking. Sara Omar has no doubt written an important piece of realistic fiction.

- Jørgen Flatabø