Rabih Alameddine: The Hakawati

by Rachel Baker on May 12, 2008

Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati‘The Hakawati’ is a plethora of tales of heroism, magic, death, victory, love, sex, redemption and lies, and just about everything else you can imagine woven into one story about one guy and his family roots. The main character travels back to his childhood home in Beirut to stand watch at his father’s death bed. He joins his sister and various family members and lifelong family friends. The time-line of the main story coincides with the feast of Ed al-Hada, a religious festival celebrated by Muslims and Druze worldwide as a commemoration of Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son, as commanded by Allah. 

Since finishing ‘The Hakawati’, I have found myself wishing the story had never ended. I have opened the book and read a passage here and there, just to stay in the story for as long as possible. This book will have a lasting effect on any reader of any genre. Its classic, its modern, its an all around great read! Its a “jump right in” kind of book that will leave you exhausted, yet longing for more!

The main story set in the hospital is joined with two Arabian tales, one of Fatima, a slave girl who conquers the heart of a genie, and the other of Baybars, a slave prince and his servant, Othman. Within the stories are other stories of the rise of Osama’s family’s rise in society and the disintegration of a civilized society by competing religions and ideologies. There are references to the Koran, the Bible, Shakespeare, Homer and many other well-known classics.

Not only does Rabih Alameddine tell the story of a storyteller, he is the Hakawati. ‘The Hakawati’ is a brilliant masterpiece of family roots, mythology and adventure. This book is a collection of fairy tales for adults. While I was reading some of the journeys in the book seemed a bit exhausting, and I had to put the book down. Upon reflection, though, they weren’t exhausting, the experience of reading the Hakawati was a full sensory explosion. There is a story of Osama’s great grandfather and his first experience with a Hakawati, the story describes how the audience reacted to the great Hakawati’s storytelling techniques. Alameddine took his own descriptions of the audience and wrote this book in a way that his readers would transform into that audience whether they realized it or not.

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