As though she were sleeping by Elias Khoury

Source – library

Translator – Humphrey Davies

Last year I read Yalo his prize-winning novel ,Elias Khoury is the voice of Lebanon ,he is well-known for his written works ,but also edited the influential magazine Mawquif in the seventies which saw the first major break through of Arabic literature into english ,they were link greatly with the Palestine experience .so what is as thou she were sleeping about .

Unlike Yalo Khoury has moved his focus from the political world to the world of the family in this book set in the 1930′ in Beirut it focus on a couple Meelya and Mansour it also carries onto to the forties and fifties  .It is recounted in the form of dreams over the three nights tha Meelya has ,these dreams drift from the now to the past and the future   .We see her family members how she became Meelya ,How she meet Mansour and moved from her home in Nazareth to Beirut  .Khoury also brings the worlds of Beirut ,Nazareth and the places in between were we  spend time to life making the scenery and smells like orange blossom falling  fly of the page .Now these dreams are almost folk talish at times when it comes to family tales a grandmother that becomes a virgin again an unfortunate uncle that ends up getting hung by a bell ringing rope .We also see the events that make the present day of the region ,the arrival of Jewish people escaping the oppression of western europe of the time to find the promised land  ,also how western influences start creeping into the area as some values change .

Meelya is in bed ,dreaming .Pain squeezes her belly and climbs upwards .She feels as though she’s suffocating ,as though a fist has buried itself in her depths and is gripping her .Her body is paralysed and her head heavy .She opens her eyes and can’t see .then the pain recedes,seeming to spread through her belly before melting away,leaving a fading memory .

Meelya second night of dreams begins .

This book is very different to Yalo I struggle at times with it thread as it drifts at times although it is easy to spilt the dreams into past present and future over the three nights ,thou  it is a book that wraps you in it arms and give you a real trip of the mind as you try to follow the threads of the dream ,Khoury seems to have done that rare thing and caught what our dreams are like on paper the cascade of our thoughts that we all have in our sleeping hours .This books style owes more to his earlier books than to his most recent Yalo  .It is Meelya quest ,she is invisible in her normal world due to her being a women in Arab society of the time .so via her dreams she is able to see the world and her place in it also how that could change with new freedoms .The last part of the book deals very much with the formation of Israeli as we see the influx of Jews to the region and the start of the conflicts that are still here to this day .I am a daydreamer so could identify with Meelya and her world of dreams .Humphrey Davies has done a wonderful job of translating what given its non linear dream like prose would be a hard book to keep Khoury’s words alive ,but he has managed too .The book is published by Machlehose press

Booker longlist reaction

Well susan Hill had promised a fresh list of books for the longlist .But in my opinon what we got was ground shaking .Books new to most people ,the shock wave on twitter was noticable as people tried to find out more about the listed books ,also why the list was so different than peoples ideas of what shoulkd have been there .The fact smaller publishers have been picked is good thing in this modern age .

• Julian Barnes  The Sense of an Ending
• Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side
• Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie
• Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
• Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues
• Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats
• Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child
• Stephen Kelman  Pigeon English
• Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days
• AD Miller Snowdrops
• Alison Pick Far to Go
• Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb
• DJ Taylor Derby Day

so there it is, of the titles I ve read none I have two on my tbr pile ,a quick trip to library yesterday came back blank .Some of them aren’t out yet thou  .From the list the ones that grab my eye are Patrick Mcguiness the last hundred days set in the dying days of the Ceauceaus regime in Romania from the small publisher seren ,snowdrops Andrew miller set in Russia a thriller about a young Englishman struggling with the temptations of new Russia .I ve sister brother and strangers child on tbr ,I m not sure what others I will read maybe wait to see what makes shortlist .Is this shake up of longlist a good thing ,in some ways as there are a number of smaller publishers on the list ,but you have to question why so many people got so few books that are on the list right .Are we seeing the depth of English writing or a small choice by five judges set on shaking the booker order  for the sake of it ? I don’t know the answer as many of you know I am more interested in translations and world lit ,but always look at the booker as the barometer of what is good or interesting in English at the moment .so in that respect I think they have got it wrong and a good few books have missed out on the longlist .

What are your thoughts ?

Did the booker need shaking up ?

 

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