by Rabih Alameddine
2008. 528pages (Hardcover).
This copy from: Public Library
In a nutshell: Osama al-Kharrat returns to Lebanon to be at his dying father’s bedside. Alameddine weaves in al-Kharrat’s family history with traditional Middle Eastern tales, including two lengthy, episode tales: tales of the courageous Fatima and tales of the slave prince Baybars.
Review: The length of the Hakawati was daunting, but I never felt that reading it was a chore, or something to slog through. Not long into this book, I thought “now this is a natural storyteller.” Alameddine’s writing has an effortless flow and is very vivid. You can see the expressions on Osama’s sister’s face, or hear the dialogue of Fatima and the djinn.
There are many stories packed into the book, and many kinds. There’s action, humor, tragedy and romance. There were little stories inside other stories. Some of the tales got a little crude for my tastes, especially the one involving Shams and Layl. But overall, I found the stories delightful in their variety and appealing characters. I loved the legendary character of Fatima.
One of the things I most appreciated about the book is how immediately engrossing it was. And it didn’t matter if I put it down for a few days and picked it back up – there was very little reacclimation needed.
Other reviews (if you have one, let me know and I’ll add it):