Agri Ismaïl’s Hyper review explores the powerful impact of money.
The current stance of the British government towards the Kurds is one of tolerance. They are no longer viewed as insignificant pawns in geopolitical games by diplomats and officials. Instead, they have proven their capability in combatting Islamic State fighters, preventing Mr Erdoğan’s imperial ambitions, and promoting gender equality through armed means. The Foreign Office can proudly claim that their interventionist approach, reminiscent of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has yielded positive results. Past atrocities like the Halabja massacre are a thing of the past, and British oil companies now have access to drilling rights. This is seen as a success.
According to Rafiq, the patriarch of the Hardi family, those who are considered the most intelligent among the Kurdish people deliberately suppress their intellect. In the 1970s, Rafiq was a wealthy doctor in Baghdad who viewed Karl Marx’s “Capital” as if it were simple love poetry. Later, he founded the Communist Party of Kurdistan. However, due to persecution against the Kurdish people and unfortunate timing, he was forced to flee to Tehran during the revolution. This resulted in another hasty escape, causing him to lose his wealth and forcing his three children to grow up as immigrants, regularly participating in cold and uncomfortable protests at various London embassies. The book continues to follow the lives of the three Hardi children in Dubai, London, and New York in the 2010s as they struggle to come to terms with the capitalist world that their father was unable to defeat. We are introduced to Siver, a reluctant housewife; Mohammed, a desperate banker; and Laika, a brilliant hacker and digital nomad who was named after the famous but unfortunate space dog.
Agri Ismaïl’s first book combines the elements of a systems novel (including lists of materials, equations, obsessive numerations, brand names, chemicals, financial deals, and humans portrayed as insignificant in the midst of overwhelming information) with the traditional immigrant novel that explores themes of displacement and feeling disconnected from one’s roots. It is an ingenious concept, and the book is filled with complex and thought-provoking ideas such as the impact of 20th-century ideas of communism and solidarity being altered by the digital age, the way technology has turned all of us into refugees as we try to hide our true identities from the ever-present digital surveillance, and how both political and personal forms of tyranny can be strengthened by the limitless freedom offered by modern society.
The protagonist, Siver, moves to socially conservative Baghdad after the invasion, but later flees to post-crash Dubai to escape her husband’s demand for her to accept a second wife. In Dubai, she finds a cultural-free environment and changes her identity. With a humanities degree from Britain, she ends up working in a mall selling high-end fashion, in a setting that resembles exaggerated 1950s America. The novel showcases Siver’s thoughts and interactions with her mother, Xezal, who was oppressed by her husband and resorted to selling jewelry to print Marxist literature. These interactions are alternated with flashbacks of Siver’s childhood and marriage.
Mohammed, the middle child, navigates through the complex world of financial politics in London during the Tory/Lib Dems coalition era. He tries to secure his job by striking a deal involving an Islamic credit card in the highly egalitarian and racially-blind industry. Despite seeing himself as a savvy negotiator, Mohammed struggles to keep up with the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of technology and finance that first emerged in the late 2000s and has since affected all of us.
The last portion of the book depicts a passionate, DeLillo-inspired online browsing experience from 2011, including trendy memes, the Arab Spring, webcam usage, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the execution of Bin Laden, and sarcastic references to President Obama. The protagonist’s younger brother, Laika, takes advantage of nanoseconds to make profitable trades from his penthouse in Manhattan through a high-speed internet connection to the New York Stock Exchange. He believes that being close to the center is still crucial, and if phrases like “Time had become polychronic, with all possible events happening at once” do not deter you, you will be greatly rewarded with a powerful depiction of the breakdown of masculinity in the 21st century.
There is a book I am interested in reading, written by Ismaïl in a sharp and dry style, about the breakdown of a marriage due to political beliefs. It follows the story of a wealthy doctor who is impacted by totalitarian regimes in two different countries and the struggles of being a Kurdish person in Iraq during the decline of the Ba’athist government. However, this novel does not focus on surviving war, displacement, or the aftermath of trauma. Instead, it delves into the experiences of immigrant families torn apart by the powerful influence of money and the post-ideological world it has created. The author captures these struggles with an intense, detailed, and unflinching perspective.
Ismail focuses on the inner despair of immigrants from marginalized and ethnically persecuted communities. He portrays a broken family unit that is unaware of its collapse and highlights the poverty of their daily lives. They deceive themselves by finding significance in small references to Western pop culture, only to feel betrayed when they realize their tales of survival and persecution hold no value when struggling to make ends meet in cities like London, Dubai, or New York. Every struggle in history has been reduced to fit into individual hearts, becoming burdens that must be carried alone. All we can hope for is to not be overwhelmed. What kind of life is that?