x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Aden College is sadly tedious despite its promise

In Two Boys from Aden College, the Yemeni author Qais Ghanem lets down his traditional coming-of-age tale tale in the telling.

Qais Ghanem - Two Boys from Aden College
Qais Ghanem - Two Boys from Aden College

Two Boys from Aden College

Qais Ghanem



A novel promising a veritable scramble of college-age high jinks in the 1960s, Two Boys from Aden College seems to have been based partly on its author Qais Ghanem’s academic sojourn in the United Kingdom. His take on the usual coming-of-age tale adds a fresh twist to the “fish out of water” plot, with both his protagonists leaving stringently conservative Yemen for the strange and thrilling new world of cosmopolitan London.

What follows is a series of events which should be a decent page-turner: Hasan and Ahmed, best friends since childhood, pursue a life of no restrictions and apparently limitless opportunities as students in London and Edinburgh respectively.

Through a spate of rash decisions, the two separate later on as Hasan returns to an arranged marriage and stable job in Yemen while Ahmad’s professional ethics lead him to danger from a repressive government.

Unfortunately, whatever dramatic potential the story possesses is extinguished by Ghanem’s colourless prose, which makes his novel excruciatingly tedious.