Undertake The Hawakati with no bookmark, or with many. Local artist Rabih Alameddine has given us a book that deploys a deep and rarified appreciation of the storyteller's art to create the illusion of containing the entire world. His gateway is the eponymous hakawati, grandfather of the narrator, a bard who travels from Urfa to Lebanon learning all the stories while creating his own. These stories scatter and swarm forth, tolerating no resistance, whenever the covers of this book are opened. Best not to read it; instead, listen. --Recommended by Matthew, City Lights Books
In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. As the family gathers, stories begin to unfold: Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching tales are interwoven with classic stories of the Middle East. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the beautiful Fatima; Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders; and a host of mischievous imps. Through Osama, we also enter the world of the contemporary Lebanese men and women whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war, conflicted identity, and survival. With The Hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century.