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

The National - News - The Review - - Fiction -

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.

Patrick Chau­vel / Sygma / Cor­bis

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.