Hear Our Defeats is not a conventional historical novel, in the sense of trying to recreate the past imaginatively. Rather, it draws on a series of past episodes, from four discrete epochs – deliberately separated in time and place – to convey a message about time, violence and humanity.
Most of it is set in the present. It revolves round two characters who are initially brought together by a brief sexual encounter that marks them both, but which neither attempts to renew. One, Mariam, is a beautiful Iraqi archaeologist. The other, Assem, is a hit man for the French secret service whose love of Constantine Cavafy’s poetry impresses Mariam, who secretly leaves him an ancient statue as a memento. Assem’s mission is to find and, if necessary, eliminate an American secret service agent who may have gone rogue after being involved in the accidental bombing . . .