Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- the new novel, the ‘Boys of Riyadh,’ by Tariq Bin Bandar al Otaibi is expected to provoke mixed reactions from Saudi society in a similar way to Rajaa al Sanea’s book ‘Banat al Riyadh’ (Girls of Riyadh) that was published by Saqi Books a year ago.
‘Boys of Riyadh,’ published by Dar al Shafaq in Beirut is al Otaibi’s first novel in which the protagonists are a number of young Saudi men from various families whose aims are to “study and work”. The book looks at events in the boys’ lives and challenges that they face before two of them become involved in relationships with girls from a higher social class than own.
The novel, which is yet to be cleared by the Ministry of Information for the Saudi market, will be met with criticism and controversy, as the book refers to relationships between the sexes and the emotional difficulties that they face. The novel is a critique of the mixing of what the author calls “love” and “playing around”. The author stated that he changed the title of the book, preferring to borrow from the controversial novel ‘Banat al Riyadh,’ by Rajaa al Sanea., which Al Otaibi says he has benefited greatly from the new title.
The 165-page novel, ‘Boys of Riyadh,’ looks at hidden social issues such as secret relationships between young males and females and the inevitable break-ups due to the repercussions of society upon the emotions of young men and women. The novel also addresses the issues of family, tribes and social restraints that hinder the success of relationships. These issues are tackled through tragic events in the book that blends classical and colloquial Arabic.
Al Otaibi told Asharq Al Awsat that the novel that is divided into five chapters required much effort and time. He added that the majority of the story is based on real-life events. The main characters Talal, Saood, Ahmed, Noha and Mashail and others are based on real people.
Al Otaibi stated that his novel is a true reflection of society and pointed out that he was inspired to write his book following a number of events that took place amongst his friends and family. “I believe that there are many experiences and events that should be addressed by literature and history for everybody to read.” Al Otaibi also highlighted that the Saudi youth is gifted with scientific and literary talent.
The young author, who holds a degree in computer programming, hopes that his novel achieves its goals. Al Otaibi says, “The novel includes events that demonstrate some negative aspects (of society) such as using religion to justify incorrect practices, domestic violence and tribal bigotry. The book also looks at social restraints such as social class that prevents young men and women from getting married and decent couples from being together. Furthermore, it tackles the issue of prohibiting women from driving as well as other topics of debate that allow for constructive criticism of certain governmental bodies.”