Zeitoun, By Dave Eggers

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The Independent Culture

A hellish account of one man's experiences after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans may seem a perverse choice to recommend for anyone heading Stateside this summer, but it goes to the heart of America.

Syrian-born Zeitoun and his wife Kathy, an American convert to Islam, are archetypes of how the US wants to see itself – capable, hard-working, intelligent, caring.

Yet when Zeitoun stays to help his flooded neighbourhood, he is snatched by anonymous, hostile figures and imprisoned in circumstances reminiscent of Guantánamo.

The story is beyond Kafka. Released after a month, Zeitoun tells Kathy to restrain her anger. "Anything could happen. Anything has happened."

Here is an America where a compassionate individual is all but destroyed by brutal authority.