Brief Encounters with the Enemy by Said Sayrafiezadeh
Fiction

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His debut as a fiction writer, “Brief Encounters With the Enemy,” is a stark and unsettling vision of that dominant culture. The young men who narrate these eight stories evince little in the way of ideals, let alone idealism. They are wage slaves fueled by can-do aphorisms and ambitions...
-NY Times

Synopsis

The first short story collection from a writer who calls to mind such luminaries as Denis Johnson, George Saunders, and Nathan Englander

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE AND BOOKISH

When The New Yorker published a short story by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh in 2010, it marked the emergence of a startling new voice in fiction. In this astonishing book, Sayrafiezadeh conjures up a nameless American city and its unmoored denizens: a call-center employee jealous of the attention lavished on a co-worker newly returned from a foreign war; a history teacher dealing with a classroom of maliciously indifferent students; a grocery store janitor caught up in a romantic relationship with a kleptomaniac customer. These men’s struggles and fleeting triumphs—with women, with cruel bosses, with the morning commute—are transformed into storytelling that is both universally resonant and wonderfully strange. Sometimes the effect is hilarious, as when a would-be suitor tries to take his sheltered, religious date on a tunnel of love carnival ride. Other times it’s devastating, as in the unforgettable story that gives the book its title: A soldier on his last routine patrol on a deserted mountain path finally encounters “the enemy” he’s long sought a glimpse of.
 
Upon giving the author the Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, the judges hailed his writing as “intelligent, funny, utterly unsmug and unpreening.”  These fiercely original stories show their author employing his considerable gifts to offer a lens on our collective dreams and anxieties, casting them in a revelatory new light.

Praise for Brief Encounters with the Enemy
  
“With impressive guile and design, Mr. Sayrafiezadeh uses the arrival and escalation of that war as the through-line connecting each personal drama. . . . These calculated echoes work to unify [his] haunting book in a way that story collections rarely manage.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
 
“In his memoir, Sayrafiezadeh told the remarkable tale of a childhood steeped in doomed dogma. His stories . . . offer something more: a searing vision of his wayward homeland, delivered not in the clamoring rhetoric of a revolutionary, but in the droll monologues of young men who kill because they lack the moral imagination to do otherwise.”—Steve Almond, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
 
“Sayrafiezadeh’s eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you’re likely to read this summer.”—The Boston Globe

“A tantalizing fiction debut . . . [that] menaces and mesmerizes.”—Elle
 
“The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“Funny and surprising . . . Sayrafiezadeh’s simple style can fool you into thinking that his struggling narrators are plain and unassuming. They are anything but. . . . Each story compels you to read the next, and no character escapes unscathed.”—The Daily Beast


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Said Sayrafiezadeh

See more books from this Author
SAÏD SAYRAFIEZADEH is the author of a memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney's, The New York Times Magazine and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among other publications. He lives in New York City and teaches at New York University.






Author Residence: New York City






Author Hometown: New York/ Pittsburgh
 
Published August 13, 2013 by The Dial Press. 241 pages
Genres: War, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Brief Encounters with the Enemy
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Steve Almond on Aug 16 2013

His debut as a fiction writer, “Brief Encounters With the Enemy,” is a stark and unsettling vision of that dominant culture. The young men who narrate these eight stories evince little in the way of ideals, let alone idealism. They are wage slaves fueled by can-do aphorisms and ambitions...

Read Full Review of Brief Encounters with the Ene... | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 24 2013

...the collection as a whole illuminates the wide range of motivations that drive people to go to war. Often beautiful, sometimes lifeless, and almost entirely without hope, these stories reflect the listlessness of our times.

Read Full Review of Brief Encounters with the Ene... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Melanie Cremins on Aug 19 2013

The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh.

Read Full Review of Brief Encounters with the Ene... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Reader Rating for Brief Encounters with the Enemy
77%

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