MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine

The Hakawati

by Rabih Alameddine

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine X
The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2008, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2009, 528 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

An inventive, exuberant novel that takes us from the shimmering dunes of ancient Egypt to the war-torn streets of twenty-first-century Lebanon.

In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father’s deathbed. The city is a shell of the Beirut Osama remembers, but he and his friends and family take solace in the things that have always sustained them: gossip, laughter, and, above all, stories.

Osama’s grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching stories—of his arrival in Lebanon, an orphan of the Turkish wars, and of how he earned the name al-Kharrat, the fibster—are interwoven with classic tales of the Middle East, stunningly reimagined. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the ancient, fabled Fatima; and Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders. Here, too, are contemporary Lebanese whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war—and of survival.

Like a true hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century—a funny, captivating novel that enchants and dazzles from its very first lines: “Listen. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.”

Excerpt

Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.

A long, long time ago, an emir lived in a distant land, in a beautiful city, a green city with many trees and exquisite gurgling fountains whose sound lulled the citizens to sleep at night. Now, the emir had everything, except for the one thing his heart desired, a son. He had wealth, earned and inherited. He had health and good teeth. He had status, charm, respect. His beautiful wife loved him. His clan looked up to him. He had a good pedicurist. Twenty years he had been married, twelve lovely girls, but no son. What to do?

He called his vizier. “Wise vizier,” he said. “I need your help. My lovely wife has been unable to deliver me a son, as you know. Each of my twelve girls is more beautiful than the other. They have milk-white skin as smooth as the finest silk from China. The glistening pearls from the Arabian Gulf pale next to their eyes. The ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group's conversation about The Hakawati, an astonishingly inventive, wonderfully exuberant novel that takes us from the shimmering dunes of ancient Egypt to the war-torn streets of twenty-first-century Lebanon.


About This Book

In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. The city is a shell of the Beirut Osama remembers, but he and his friends and family take solace in the things that have always sustained them: gossip, laughter, and, above all, stories.

Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Hakawati, like any good novel, isn't for everyone. Reading it takes a little practice, a little pacing, and if you're really lucky, one empty weekend to devour it whole. My advice to potential readers is this: Surrender to this hakawati. Get on his magic carpet, and let him tell you a story. In fact, let him tell you one thousand stories. He'll handle all the details, and you can sit back and enjoy the ride...continued

Full Review (389 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

Media Reviews

New York Observer - Damian Da Costa
Unfortunately, Mr. Alameddine’s powers as a writer don’t measure up to his sources (surprise!) or to the novel’s considerable length. Which is a shame, because tucked inside this mess of a book are several perfectly serviceable short stories or novellas.

Milwaukie Journal Sentinel - Rayyan Al-Shawa
[A] wildly imaginative patchwork of tales improbably threading together Greek mythology, biblical parables, Arab-Islamic lore, and even modern Lebanese politics. Though reading such a chaotic book proves exhausting - blame the author's desultory technique and dizzying array of characters - several stories both charm and amuse .... what you get is a delightful mess of a stew that still tastes delectable and exotic, no matter how many times you partake of it.

San Francisco Chronicle - David Hellman
Alameddine should be commended for the chances he takes, and he certainly has prodigious skills that should not be discounted. But The Hakawati could have used some editorial tightening. Nonetheless, Alameddine deserves credit for telling a story the West should pay attention to, and evoking the diversity of the Arab world (Christian, Muslim, Jew and even Druze, they are all here) that is often taken for granted in our ever narrowing perspective of righteousness.

Rocky Mountain News - Traci J. Macnamara
In The Hakawati's opening lines, Alameddine asks his readers to "Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story." This book covers ambitious terrain, and the author succeeds in doing what he has proposed. In the process, Alameddine proves that he's the hakawati for our times.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This magical novel is epic in proportion and will enchant readers everywhere.

Publishers Weekly
Magical....Alameddine's own storytelling ingenuity seems infinite: out of it he has fashioned a novel on a royal scale, as reflective of past empires as present.

Booklist
Alameddine, himself a brilliant hakawati, exuberantly reclaims and celebrates the art of wisdom of the war-torn Middle East in this stupendous, ameliorating, many-chambered palace of a novel.

Kirkus Reviews
A dizzying, prodigal display of storytelling overabundance.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Hakawatis and A Thousand and One Nights

Once upon a time, not terribly long ago, hakawatis, or storytellers, were commonplace fixtures on Middle Eastern streets. As coffee-drinking gained popularity in Ottoman times, the hakawatis moved from the streets into the coffee houses. Hakawatis were paid by the owners of the coffee houses to draw customers, and the best could also expect tips from their audience. Hakawatis were known for their dramatic performances, and were consummate entertainers. The rise of radio and television brought the demise of this ancient Arab tradition of public storytelling, and hakawatis all but disappeared from the Middle East by the 1970's. Listen to an NPR interview with the last full-time hakawati in the Syrian capital of Damascus. ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Rabih Alameddine

If you liked The Hakawati, try these:

  • The Parisian jacket

    The Parisian

    by Isabella Hammad

    Published 2019

    About this book

    A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.

  • The Incarnations jacket

    The Incarnations

    by Susan Barker

    Published 2016

    About this book

    An original novel about a Beijing taxi driver whose past incarnations over one thousand years haunt him through searing letters sent by his mysterious soulmate.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Pew
    Pew
    by Catherine Lacey
    A quote often attributed to Leo Tolstoy states that "All great literature is one of two stories; a ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for an Echo
    Waiting for an Echo
    by Christine Montross
    Dr. Christine Montross had been a practicing psychiatrist for nearly a decade when she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Flight Portfolio
    by Julie Orringer
    At once a sweeping historical narrative, an insightful character study and a tender romance, Julie ...
  • Book Jacket: The Color of Air
    The Color of Air
    by Gail Tsukiyama
    Daniel was raised in Hilo, Hawaii by Japanese immigrant parents. Having traveled to the U.S. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    He Started It
    by Samantha Downing

    A new thriller from the twisted mind behind the mega hit My Lovely Wife.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Hieroglyphics
    by Jill McCorkle

    A mesmerizing novel about piecing together the hieroglyphics of history and memory.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Last Flight
by Julie Clark

The story of two women and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Every Bone a Prayer

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms

A beautifully honest exploration of healing and of hope.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T Real M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.