Cartography of Mangled Minds: Mazen Maarouf’s Jokes for the Gunmen


  • Judith Sebastian Kurishumoottil Manalil Assumption College, India



War, traumatic ambience, predicaments, social distress, mental distress, horror.


“Power was the most important subject, as far as we were concerned, during the war” (6).

The 20th century was dominated by the two World Wars, the Cold War and the post-Cold War conflicts. The 21st century appears to be no better. Just two decades into the new millennium and we are already experiencing the tremors of outbreaks across the globe, notably referred to as terrorism, ethnic conflict, civil wars and hybrid and special operations warfare. These nonstate, intrastate, and interstate violence have had an impact on the lives of millions of people. It is in this context that Booker longlisted work Jokes for the Gunmen (2019) by the Palestinian-Icelandic author Mazen Maarouf may be read.   Maarouf weaves together twelve stories that offer a kaleidoscope of insights on the impact of war on the civilian population.  Jokes for the Gunmen is grounded in a conflict zone that is for the most part unspecified, except in the “Gramophone” where it is Lebanon (55) while in “Juan and Ausa” it is Spain. Thus the narratives are universalized to reinforce the idea that war is an act of violence against the global citizen and everybody and everywhere is its target. The characters are never given names except for Hossam in “Other –People’s –Dreams - Syndrome” and Juan and Ausa in the eponymous story. This buttresses the design of the universality of the narratives. The author seems to drive home the fact that no one can claim immunity from war and this becomes only too obvious with the narrative space being inundated with fatalities. Again, as we march along the narratives, we find that the boundaries between combatants and civilians, battlefronts and domestic spaces have almost blurred. Everyone is now at the combat zone and the combat zone is everywhere. The private domain of the hearth and the home that once signified security and well-being has also been transformed into dangerous territory.  



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Maarouf , Mazen. Jokes for the Gunmen. Granta, 2019.

Goldman, Linda. Raising Our Children to Be Resilient: A Guide to Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today's World. Taylor & Francis Group, 2004, p xii, xiii.

Shapira, Michal. The War Inside: Psychoanalysis, Total War, and the Making of the Democratic Self in Postwar Britain, Cambridge UP, 2013, p 33




How to Cite

Kurishumoottil Manalil, J. S. . (2020). Cartography of Mangled Minds: Mazen Maarouf’s Jokes for the Gunmen. SMART MOVES JOURNAL IJELLH, 8(12), 141–153.