Excerpt from The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Hakawati

By Rabih Alameddine

The Hakawati
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2008,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2009,
    528 pages.

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On the fourth evening, in the middle of the Sinai Desert, before the sun had completely set, the party was attacked just as Fatima had predicted. Twenty Bedouins dispatched the city soldiers. Finding little of value among the belongings, the captors decided to divide the spoils evenly. Ten would have Fatima and ten would get to use Jawad.

Fatima laughed. “Are you men or boys?” She stepped forward, leaving a visibly nervous Jawad behind. “You have a chance to receive pleasure from me and you choose this stripling?”

“Be quiet, woman,” said the leader. “We must divide you evenly. We cannot risk a fight over the booty. Be thankful. You would not be able to deal with more than ten of us.”

Fatima laughed and turned back to Jawad. “These desert rats have not heard of me.” She took off her headdress; her abundant black hair tumbled around her face. “These children of the barren lands have not sung my tales.” She unhooked the chain of gold coins encircling her forehead. “They believe that twenty infants would be too much for me.” She took off her abayeh showing her seductress figure, stood before the Bedouins in her dress of blue silk and gold. “Behold,” she said. “I am Fatima, charmer of men, bewitcher of the heavens. Look how the moon calls his clouds; see how he crawls behind his curtains; watch him hide in shame, for he refuses to reveal himself when I show my face. You think you peons will be too much for me, Fatima?” She raised her hands to the vanishing moon. “Think whether twenty of you would satisfy me, Fatima, tamer of Afreet-Jehanam.” She glared at the men. “Tremble.”

“Afreet-Jehanam?” the leader cried. “You conquered the mighty jinni?”

“Afreet-Jehanam is my lover. He is no more than my plaything. He does my bidding.”

“I want her. I refuse to have the boy. We have to redivide the spoils. This will not do.”

“No,” the leader said. “We cannot have everyone get what they want. That is not the Arab way. It has already been decided.”

“I want the woman as well,” cried another man. “You cannot keep her to yourself and give us this waif of a boy.”An argument ensued. Everyone wanted Fatima, except for one man, Khayal, who kept insisting, “I really want the boy,” to anyone who would listen. But no one listened. The nine men who wanted Fatima instead of the boy grew livid. Rules or no rules, they had been cheated. They had no idea Fatima was so talented. They had been deceived and wanted their appropriate share. The goods, as any idiot could see, had not been divided equally. Battle lines were drawn, swords unsheathed. Quickly, the ten killed the nine.

“I think the boy is winsome,” said Khayal.

Twenty lustful eyes stared at Fatima.

“Now, now, boys,” she said coyly. “Was that really necessary?”

“It is time, Sitt Fatima,” the leader said. “We are ready.”

“Well, I am not. I must choose who goes first. The first lover is very important. He will help me set the stage for what is to come. Should I go with the one who has the biggest penis? I like that, but sometimes he who has the biggest is the worst lover, and that will force me to work harder. This should be amusement not labor. Which of you has the smallest penis? A man with a small member would be more eager to please me, but then, as hard as it is, it is not as satisfying. Choosing the first lover should not be taken lightly. I have much to consider.”

The leader huffed and puffed. “There is nothing to consider. I go first. I am the best lover and the rest can take turns after I am sated.”

“You are not the best lover,” another brigand said. “If you were, your wife would not be leaving her house in the middle of the night.”

Excerpted from The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine Copyright © 2008 by Rabih Alameddine. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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