If you ask me to name few of the greatest authors in this world, Leon Uris would surely be one of them...There is no doubt...If you don't believe me, try reading Exodus, Trinity or The Haj for that matter.
Historical Fiction spanning over centuries, generations, clans etc. That is Leon Uris's territory and his writings are influenced by his Jewish background. Exodus is about the creation of the state of Israel from the point of views of the Jews, Trinity is about the struggle of Irish Catholics in Ireland in early 20th century, and The Haj is about the Arab population in the middle east in the 1920s-1950s.
The Haj is written as narrated by Ishmael, the youngest son of Ibrahim, the muktar of a village called Tabah. Being situated close to Jerusalem, Tabah has a lot of importance as a military and strategic location. The title of the book has pretty much nothing to do with the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca; it just denotes Ibrahim who is a Hajji - a title he earned after his travel to Mecca.
The Haj starts describing about the village life in general and how Ibrahim leads his people. Things change when a Jewish settlement is made just next to the village. Ibrahim is both awed and disturbed by Gideon Asch, the leader of the Jewish settlement. They strike up a friendship which is kept very official to everyone outside them.
Ibrahim realizes that there is nothing hateful about Jews, and that the Arabs do have a lot to learn from them. But then the general sentiment against the Jews are hate. Islamic leaders also keep up this frenzy for their own personal gains. Eventually when war breaks out, Moslem leaders convinces Ibrahim to evacuate Tabah and Ibrahim and his villagers moves from one refugee camp to another, without any hope of returning to their own soil.
The Haj is the toughest of the 3 books I have read. Exodus written about the formation of the State of Israel had a lot of hope embedded in each chapter in the midst of so much misery. Trinity also had a lot of miseries described in detail, but that was also bearable. The Haj is a tale of never ending misery and probably insanity was the only way to conclude this one...because there was no other conclusion to be provided.
This book has a lot of narration about the Arab-Israeli conflicts in Palestine, but this is primarily focusing on the Arab culture, their mindset, their way of living etc. This is a book that totally horrifies you when you stop a second to think that this is a fiction based on historical events, however biased it may be...
A true masterpiece...