The stolen child fathered by his family’s killer
Set against Lebanon’s Civil War, Rabee Jaber’s novel follows a boy, kidnapped in a terrible act of revenge, as he searches for his past, Malcolm Forbes writes
Canada classmates endured during lessons or the sniper-fire they were exposed to in the playground.
He collects shrapnel off the streets and makes illicit trips to the demarcation line or bombed buildings. In addition he relays deaths, his brother’s war exploits and his sister’s departure from “this unlucky country”; he dates a girl, forges a strong friendship and studies at the American University.
It is when he tries to find out about his real family – and his real name and date of birth – that he hits a dead-end, discovering that all the records from the war were burned, lost, stolen or destroyed.
Confessions could just as accurately be called “Memories”. “I’m gathering up my memories and watching them flow,” Maroun tells us.
“I’m extracting the memories from the back rooms, I’m taking untrodden paths to find myself.” Some of those memories are triggered by Proustian prompts – bitter oranges, fava beans, pumpkin jam – others by confronting his demons.
Maroun repeats himself, gets sidetracked, stumbles during traumatic recollections and fi xates on small, bizarre details, but each jerky, meandering, rough- edged sentence is both mesmerising and convincing.
Jaber has written 18 novels – including The Druze of Belgrade which won the International Prize for Arabic Literature – but Confessions is only the second to be translated into English (beautifully so by Kareem James Abu-Zeid).
With luck, more of his back catalogue will become available to English readers. Until then, we have this clever and illuminating novel.
Malcolm Forbes is a regular contributor to The Review.
A Christian Phalangist waits in East Beirut, in August 1976. Lebanon’s lengthy civil war forms the backdrop for Rabee Jaber’s new novel, Confessions.