Blessed Benefit

Mahmoud al Massad

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Imprisoned on an unfair charge of fraud, a mild-mannered Jordanian contractor discovers that prison has its own rhythms, rules, and economies — and he soon begins to carve out a position for himself in this place where fraud isn’t a crime so much as a way of life.

The middle-aged, scrawny, bespectacled Ahmad doesn't belong in prison. But when the quiet contractor and father of two is charged with fraud over an unbuilt fence, things spiral out of control. His cousin has the dinars to pay bail, but is more intent on finding the tastiest goat with which to celebrate Eid than on securing Ahmad's freedom. The unreliability of this would-be saviour leads to a comic series of miscommunications with the police and Ahmad's lawyer, landing our hero in jail.

Surrounded by stock-market swindlers, insurance scammers, and self-proclaimed spies, Ahmad waits for his cousin to come through. The days stretch into weeks, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he'll be released in time for Eid. Ahmad discovers that prison has its own rhythms, its own rules, and its own economies — and he begins to carve out a position for himself, learning to make good in this place where fraud isn't a crime so much as a way of life. He even finds a certain kind of status with his maladjusted but often well-meaning fellow inmates. But Ahmad is about to discover that, no matter which side of the bars he's on, events are guided by forces beyond his control.

Mahmoud al Massad's accomplished comedy is a wry look at a world dominated by bureaucracy and inefficiency. Deploying its sharp wit at a swift pace, Blessed Benefit — like the surprisingly resourceful Ahmad — makes the most of an unlikely milieu.


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