Two Lebanese American Novels Reviewed at The New York Review of Books

In Colm Tóibín’s The Anger of Exile at The New York Review of Books he reviews two novels by Lebanese exiles living in the North America. They sound like they have some promise.

About Rabih Alameddine’s book he writes

The Hakawati offers a set of competing narratives, some fabulous, some filled with memory and desire; it allows what we might call geopoetics to flow over geopolitics. By refusing to permit a single perspective or a single story or style to dominate, it offers, almost despite itself, a paradigm of mingling images and rich difference living in a panoramic, harmonic disunity. Alameddine suggests with some subtlety and much exuberance how this tapestry might come to the aid of the very world that the book explores.

About Hag’s novel he writes

In scene after scene our narrator mocks the very idea of the ordered self or the ordered society. He makes racist comments about other immigrants, calling them “welfare dogs” and forcing the reader to side with him or hate him all the more. His deep dislike of a poor émigré Algerian professor is irrational and fierce. He is an affront to all types of decency. The fact that he is writing this in Canada, a country that rightly is proud of its policy on immigration and ethnic diversity, adds a comedy to the book; the sound of the hand that feeds being bitten sharply offers a rhythmic energy to the prose and removes any possibility of easy self-pity from the tone.

Cockroach is all voice, and it depends on the holding and wielding of tone. The problem is that it is also a novel and thus Hage works a number of plotlines through the book, some more convincing than others.

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