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The Hakawati

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Last Updated: 25 November 2020

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Rabih Alameddine has spun a honeycomb of fable, family history, and Lebanese lore in his newest novel, Hakawati. I was struck initially by the book's title, Arabic word for storyteller. It seems to be the first time a novel has come out from major press with an Arabic title; moreover, title is practically buoyant on cover. Hakawati's beautiful nested stories are rooted in Arabic and Indo-Persian Folktales, as well as biblical stories and Western folk traditions. In his acknowledgments, Alameddine mentions many sources that inspire his retellings, among them Iliad, Kalila wa Dimna, Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Flowers From Persian Garden, Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales, and, most prominently, Thousand and One Nights. Like Nights, Hakawati is told as stories within stories, and so florid and entangled are stories that now, looking back, it's sometimes hard for me to disentangle many of them. The main pleasure derived from these snaking, hooked fables is the very moment of reading them. More than three quarters of the way into the novel, Alameddine writes, best stories always begin with the appearance of a woman. He followed his own advice, opening his novel to centuries in the past with Fatima, Alexandrian. In order to help her emir produce son, Fatima offers to travel back to Egypt to visit a healer. When Emir asks why healers can't come to him, Fatima says healers never leave home, because home is the source of their magic. And thus novel launches its first character on an intricate, sometimes deadly, and always absorbing adventure, and the rest of the cast follow Fatima's example. First to follow is Osama al-Kharrat, narrator of the book, who has come back to Lebanon after a long self-impose exile in LA to stand vigil at his father's hospital bedside. Osama feels foreign to himself in Lebanon. I was a tourist in a bizarre land, he say, I was Home. In the first three pages of his novel, Alameddine mentions magic, foreignness, and the pull of homeand idea of belonging. Exile becomes the central theme for the rest of the book. Osama tells stories to keep his father, his patriarch, alive; book's 513 pages take place over a few days, elongating the last breaths of Osama's father. And like Dinarzad, who sits under the king's bed listening to her older sister's stories, Osama has listened all his life to his Druze family's Tales, and is now sitting beside the king's bed, ready to retell them; ready to preserve his own father's life, and the lives of those who come before him, by telling their stories and memorializing their histories. We see Osama's grandfather, orphan and illegitimate child whose mother was servant in a wealthy British doctor's home in Turkey. Grandfather wound up on the streets as a young boy, and was taken in by Effendi and learnt the ways of the city's Hakawatis.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Praise

Praise for Hakawati Here is absolute beauty. One of the finest novels Ive read in years. Junot Diaz epic in oldest and newest senses, careening from Koran to Old Testament, Homer to Scheherazade. Its hard to imagine a person who wouldnt get carried away. Jonathan Safran Foer is absolutely original _ the kind of writing you savor and read aloud. Delightful book. Laila Halaby, Washington Post praises Rabih Alameddine Rabih Alameddine is one of our most daring writers. Michael Chabon Rabih Alameddine is a writer of conscience, of self-consciousness, of subconsciousness, of great big global unconscious.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Sources

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

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