One of Lebanon's leading writers recreates a village forever transformed by the massacre of one Christian community by another, and its impact on a mother and her long-estranged son.
On June 16, 1957, a shoot-out in a village church in northern Lebanon leaves two dozen people dead. In the aftermath of the massacre, the town is divided in two: the Al-Ramis in the north and their rivals, the Al-Semaanis, in the south. But lives once so closely intertwined cannot easily be divided. Neighbors turn into enemies, and husbands and wives are forced to choose between loyalty to each other and loyalty to their clan.
Drawing on an actual killing that took place in his home town, Douaihy reconstructs that June day from the viewpoints of people who witnessed the killings or whose lives were forever altered by them. A young girl overhears her father lending his gun to his cousins but refusing to accompany them to the church. A school boy walks past the dead bodies, laid out in the town square on beds brought out from the houses. A baker, whose shop is trapped on the wrong side of the line, hopes the women who buy his bread will protect him.
At the center of Douaihy’s masterful novel is Eliyya, who, twenty years after immigrating to the US, returns to the village to learn about the father who was shot through the heart in the massacre: the father he never knew. But can the village, alive with the ghosts of his childhood, really provide Eliyya answers to questions he can’t even articulate?
With an incredible eye for detail, Douaihy describes that fateful Sunday when rain poured from the sky and the traditions and affections of village life were consumed by violence and revenge.
Jabbour Douaihy is a celebrated Lebanese novelist born in the town of Zgharta, northern Lebanon, in 1949. He holds a PhD degree in comparative literature from the Sorbonne and works as a professor of French literature at the Lebanese University. He has published seven works of fiction, including June Rain, which was shortlisted for the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2008 and The Vagrant, shortlisted for IPAF in 2012. The American Quarter reached the IPAF long list in 2015. Paula Haydar is Clinical Assistant Professor of Arabic at the University of Arkansas. She holds a PhD degree in comparative literature and an M.F.A. degree in literary translation. She has translated numerous novels by contemporary Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian authors. Her translation of Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy’s June Rain was selected as the highly commended runner-up of the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation and also made the Daily Star’s list of Top Middle East Novels of 2014. Her translations of Lebanese authors also include three novels by Elias Khoury (Gates of the City, The Journey of Little Gandhi, and The Kingdom of Strangers) and three novels by Rashid al-Daif (This Side of Innocence, Learning English, and Who’s Afraid of Meryl Streep?). Her translations of novels by Palestinian writers include Sahar Khalifeh’s The End of Spring and Adania Shibli’s Touch (Interlink). Her most recent translation is What Price Paradise by Jordanian writer Jamal Naji.
“Douaihy offers a highly original portrait—sometimes poignant, and sometimes sarcastic—of a Middle East still to discover.”
“Jabbour Douaihy builds a powerful and complex novel with several voices, artfully weaving childhood memories and an adult's investigation.”
“An exciting, successful literary novel.”
“A powerful novel which one cannot fail to recommend.”
"Jabbour Douaihy's book depicts the political divisions that left a northern Lebanese village suffering for generations ' There is a humorous undertone to Douaihy's characters and their way of life, although the tragedy at the heart of the story lives on in them and through them. His characters are resilient in the face of dire circumstances, and do not change for anyone. They see things in their own perspectives, they do not submit to anyone else's view. Each character recalls what happened those many years ago in the village from their own perspectives, moving backwards in time as Eliyya moves forward. When he returns to find out what happened on that fateful summer afternoon, he learns more than just the answers he's looking for.
Douaihy's masterpiece ' A powerful portrait of identity and division in Lebanon '
A 1957 gunfight at a village funeral mass in Lebanon was incubated by a dispute more than 40 years earlier. This is the fulcrum for this multidimensional, multi-viewpoint novel enriched with cultural and linguistic anthropology by Lebanese author Douaihy (Printed in Beirut, 2018). At the center is Eliyya Kfoury, born nine months after the battle to Kamileh, whose husband died that day. Now a middle-aged man in the habit of inventing autobiographies to elicit the interest of blond girlfriends, Eliyya returns from America after 20 years to visit his mother and probe his father's history. He interviews people present at the massacre and, in Douaihy's nod to The Bridge of San Luis Rey, keeps a diary of their stories, which dovetail as often as they diverge. He's warned to not believe anything. Douaihy describes a world both €˜ancient and shallow,' €˜as if just around the bend is Peter denying his master Jesus Christ.' Amidst age old dynamics shaped by clan and vendetta, and where names broadcast familial connections going back four generations, Eliyya searches for his identity.