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

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish lantern
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 19:30:06

    This sounds like my kind of,book, the idea of threads drifting off to possibly return appeals, so will check this out.


  2. JoV
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 08:04:04

    I want to read this too! This reminds me of Murakami’s books, non-linear, slip between dreams and reality, it will be awesome to read one which is written by an Arab. I can’t wait to read Khoury’s new book. I like Yalo and I think this wouldn’t disappoint.

    What a great review thanks for introducing me to the book. I’ll check it out in my local library.


  3. JoV
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 08:07:24

    I want to read this book! I like Yalo and I think this wouldn’t disappoint as well. It is my kind of book, the sort that slip in and out between dreams and reality. Sort of like Murakami but it would be interesting to see an Arab writer writing it.

    Thanks for a great review and introducing this book. I’ll see if my local library stock this one.


  4. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 14:42:17

    Interesting. You always remind me of lacking behind in terms of the ‘internationalness’ of my readings. thanks Stu


  5. Sarah
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 23:50:35

    This does sound excellent, and I haven’t read an Arabic book ever. Wonderful review. Thank you Stu. At the risk of gushing, you are an inspiration 🙂


  6. Geosi
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 15:47:37

    An interesting book, I think. Thanks for sharing this.


  7. Trackback: Winston’s books hello again | Winstonsdad's Blog

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July 2011


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