Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman
Posted 20th April 2017
‘Infused with profound knowledge, empathy, and chutzpah, Ackerman’s writing is hauntingly evocative and beautiful.’ – Elif Shafak
From the author of the acclaimed Green on Blue, Dark at the Crossing is a timely new novel of stunning humanity and tension set on the Turkish border with Syria.
When it comes to writing about the current moment in the Middle East, Ackerman is an expert with first hand experience. Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. Since then, he has covered the war in Syria since 2013 for The New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the New York Times, among other publications. As the writer Tom Bissell has commented, ‘They don’t award medals of valor to novelists, but while reading this book I often thought, Maybe they should.’
Read the opening of the novel below, and buy the book here.
The morning he went off to his second war, Haris Abadi spent twenty minutes in the sauna of the Tugcan Hotel. Cleaned by his sweat, he swaddled himself in a complimentary bathrobe, went up to his room and took a long shower. Then he went back to sleep, waking naked on his bed an hour later. Downstairs for a late breakfast, he ate three buttered croissants with jam.
The concierge found Haris in the large, empty dining room, its circular tables set with fine crystal as if waiting for a party that would never come. Leaning over Haris, the concierge grasped the lapels of his suit jacket, where he wore a pinned insignia of crossed gold keys. He asked Haris something in Turkish. Haris didn’t speak Turkish and shrugged back, his mouth still full of flaky croissant.
The concierge tried Arabic: ‘How has your stay been?’
‘Good, thank you,’ said Haris.
‘Business or pleasure?’
‘Business,’ answered Haris. There was no other reason to come to Antep, an industrial backwater along Turkey’s southern border with Syria.
The concierge looked at the stuffed hiking pack propped against the leg of Haris’s chair. ‘Checking out then?’
Haris reached into a deep internal pocket on the pack, fishing around for his cash. He pulled out a mixed roll of Turkish lira, American dollars and Syrian pounds. He held the wad beneath the table, counting it bill by bill. The concierge hovered above him.
‘Two hundred a night, yes?’ asked Haris, peeling six hundred lira off his roll.
The concierge nodded, eyeing Haris’s dollars. ‘You’re American?’ he asked.
Haris handed over the money for three nights. ‘Here, six hundred.’
He felt the concierge taking a closer look at him: his pack, his desert-suede combat boots.
‘I’d prefer you pay in dollars,’ said the concierge.
As hard as he’d worked to become an American, Haris hated the way his new clothes and strong currency betrayed him abroad. He paid in dollars, and the concierge tucked the tight fold of twenties into his vest’s front pocket.
‘Allow me to find you a cab.’
Haris nodded, then got up and went to the bathroom, leaving his heavy pack unattended in the opulent dining room. He didn’t seem to care if everything was taken from him.
Buy Dark at the Crossing here.