Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.
So begins The Hakawati, a novel by Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese-American author who interweaves the magical stories of the Middle East with the story of a young man growing up in Beirut in the ’70s and his family, chief among them his grandfather the Hakawati: the storyteller, also known as al-Kharrat, the liar.
Chapter by chapter, the stories continue: engrossing, hilarious, ribald, and the family saga deepens, the way they do with time. These are classic stories, some of the best tales in the world — Fatima, Baybars, Ishmael — but retold with punch and violence and heartache and sillyness they take the reader on their own series of Arabian nights. And the real Arabian nights punctuate it: what is it like to live through so many wars, in the world of pigeons and stories? I finished this long book over five nights, and found myself during the day wondering what would happen next, feeling compelled to keep going. I highly recommend it.