Rabih Alameddine's latest novel, The Hakawati, features protagonist Osama al-Kharrat, a man who returns to his native Beirut after living in Los Angles for many years. His childhood home is war-torn and gloomy, yet he and his family share togetherness and camaraderie as his father quickly approaches death. This is one of many tales told in this epic, dazzling, time-spanning novel. Hakawati, which translates to "storyteller," lives up to its name, as Alameddine whips up many tales, drawing inspiration from an impressive scope of texts, including biblical and Greek stories; mind-bending fables with imps, witches, and magical horses; and even mythical adventures of ancient Arab battles; also pausing to tell survival tales from the very real civil war in Lebanon. Some tales you will recognize, though the perspective and lesson learned may be different, while others are completely new (or new to you). It is Osama's grandfather, a hakawati himself, who the novel is named after, but readers will instantly recognize that the real storyteller is Alameddine himself. His threads of violence, adventure, family ties, boldness, glee, whimsy, magic, and sorrow are tightly woven into an amazingly rich tapestry of many stories in one novel.
Fri., June 6, 7:30 p.m., 2008