باب الشمس



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  • 528 pages
  • باب الشمس
  • إلياس خوري
  • Arabic
  • 21 June 2017

10 thoughts on “باب الشمس

  1. says:

    How to begin this review has been my quandry and has held me back til now This book is not an easy read for many reasons The story twists and turns, moving back and forth through the years between 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous dislodging, destruction of Palestinian lives, and the late 1980s in displaced Palestinian camps in Lebanon It has been called a Palestinian Odyssey.To say it is not an easy read is not to say I didn t like this book or appreciate How to begin this review has been my quandry and has held me back til now This book is not an easy read for many reasons The story twists and turns, moving back and forth through the years between 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous dislodging, destruction of Palestinian lives, and the late 1980s in displaced Palestinian camps in Lebanon It has been called a Palestinian Odyssey.To say it is not an easy read is not to say I didn t like this book or appreciate it In fact, once I grew to understand it s style or process, I think I began to appreciate itFor me, the moving back and forth through time along with the shifts in narrative voice began to represent the fractured lives of the Palestinians who once called Galilee home.The principal narrator is Khalil, a nurse doctor who is tending to his hero, Yunes, who has slipped into a coma after suffering a stroke Yunes is of an older generation, a man who spent years after this first great disaster, the Nakba , trying to draw a line between the dead and the living p178 The Nakba, or catastrophe,is explained by the author as the massive expulsion and exodus in 1948 of 750,000 Palestinians Much of the narrative continues this same task of trying to draw a line between living and dead, hero and villain, sanity and insanity,victor and victim.Just as we see around us today, there are no easy answers, there are only themes loss, love, redemption, hope, madness, escape, hate, fear, manyYou said you understood the meaning of the word country after the fall of Sha ab A country isn t oranges or olives, or the mosque of al Jazzar in Acre A country is falling into the abyss, feeling that you are part of the whole, and dying because it has died the villages fell, and we ran from one to another as though we were on the sea jumping from boat to another, the boats sinking, and us with them No one was able to conceive of what the fall would mean, and the people fell because everything fell p193The Nakba was followed by a wandering life of internal and external exile, yearning to return to these small villages, rejected by neighboring countries,death and destruction,falling in love and starting family Alsothought about what is truly happening We, too, killed and destroyed, but at that moment I sensed the banality of evil Evil has no meaning, and we are just tools We re nothing We make war and kill and die, and we re nothing just fuel for a huge machine whose name is War p276 And regarding the Holocaust You and I and every human being on the face of the planet should have known and not stood by in silence, should have prevented that beast from destroying its victims in that barbaric, unprecedented manner Not because the victims were Jews but because their death meant the death of humanity within us.The Palestinians live for the land that WAS their home is memory a sickness a strange sickness that afflicts a whole people A sickness that has made you imagine things and build your entire lives on the illusion of memory p336 Do you believe we can construct our country out of these ambiguous stories And why do we have to construct it People inherit their countries as they inherit their languages Why do we, of all the peoples of the world, have to invent our country every day so everything isn t lost and we find we ve fallen into eternal sleep p381This book is an elegy for a lost way of life, a song of mourning with an edge of hope shown in continuing life of the younger generations but they are spread now around the world Khoury has Khalil say near the end of the book, Poetry, my son, is words we use to heal our shame, our sorrow, our longing It s a cover, The poet wraps us up in words so our souls don t fall to pieces Poetry is against death it s both sickness and cure, the bare soul and its clothes p511I feel a bit inadequate in the face of reviewing this workit s so large I ve tried to give a flavor of all that is in it I ve rated it 4 to 4.5 rather than 5 because of my initial difficulty in relating to the form of it all Once I did, however, I found that this flowed At some point I may change it to 5, difficult to say.As I m writing this review, I also realize that terrible fighting is happening again among these same peoples The cycle of sadness and death continues

  2. says:

    This is a beautifully written novel, in which Khoury draws inspiration from stories he heard from Palestinians in refugee camps The stories are told from the perspective of Khalil, who is a close friend, almost a son, to Yunes, a Palestinian freedom fighter who is in a coma, a result of a massive stroke Although others have given Yunes up for dead, Khalil sits vigil by his hospital bedside and recounts stories, in an effort to make sense of their lives, and to make some contact with Yunes.The This is a beautifully written novel, in which Khoury draws inspiration from stories he heard from Palestinians in refugee camps The stories are told from the perspective of Khalil, who is a close friend, almost a son, to Yunes, a Palestinian freedom fighter who is in a coma, a result of a massive stroke Although others have given Yunes up for dead, Khalil sits vigil by his hospital bedside and recounts stories, in an effort to make sense of their lives, and to make some contact with Yunes.The novel is written as stream of consciousness, with Khalil often telling different versions of the same stories He goes back and forth over time, and grapples with the instability of memory and questions of motivation and identity Although the novel s style requires patience from the reader, I thought it beautifully represented the instability of truth and reality in a refugee camp He also shows again and again the fervent desire to return home, and the impossibility of that.Also of interest to me were Khoury s representations of women He depicts them as strong, and provides vivid examples of the weight they have borne under exile Recommended for anyone interested in the Palestinian experience in exile, and for readers who are interested in the instability of memory, and in the role of stories in creating identities

  3. says:

    There is a point where Elias Khoury speaks through his character Khalil about the difficulties of writing Khalil says to the comatose Yunis that words come apart when you write them down, and revert to symbols, cold and lifeless I encounter this all the time when I write, andso recently it seems Language is an imperfect form of communication, and at some level everything is symbolic, no matter how definitive or specific we attempt to make our speech Receiving or interpreting symbols There is a point where Elias Khoury speaks through his character Khalil about the difficulties of writing Khalil says to the comatose Yunis that words come apart when you write them down, and revert to symbols, cold and lifeless I encounter this all the time when I write, andso recently it seems Language is an imperfect form of communication, and at some level everything is symbolic, no matter how definitive or specific we attempt to make our speech Receiving or interpreting symbols and language is a highly subjective process, and the best forms of communication are those that are perhaps not so specific that leave some rounding of the edges parables, myths, stories Yunis is a symbol as Khalil says to Dr Amjad, a symbol for Palestine and a symbol for the dismantling of the hero myth The interplay of these ideas in and around Khalil and the stories he tells becomes a commentary not only on the empirical reality of occupation in Palestine, but also on universal truths pertaining to life, identity and purpose How do we define who we are in our deepest internal essence What does it mean to have an identity Khalil talks about becoming a number as the biggest fear, and further how the Palestinians are destined to be forgotten because there is always a bigger calamity to overshadow the previous tragedy It s stories that must keep identity alive so that justice has a chance to present itself If there is no identity, no people and therefore no rights that have been wronged, how can justice ever prevail This is very much true in many parts of the West where the Palestinian story in any form is simply not heard or not listened to, therefore ceasing to exist The attempt to delineate the truth from falsehood is a major theme here, and this becomes one of the deeper philosophical undercurrents to the novel First, we must define what is true and what is false Enter storytelling and the symbol of the hero Stories give us power, the power to shape our identity and reality at many levels Khalil constantly starts from the beginning in telling stories, with a drive to get closer and closer to his definition of reality a sense that he wants to clear away myth and focus on the interactions between humans Khoury s writing expresses figuratively and literally at times that Palestine is peoplethan it is land The Gate of the Sun is the escape from all the political posturing and corruption, the intellectual theorizing about peace, the ineffective international efforts towards reconciliation and solutions, to the deep connections between humans represented most by the love relationships of Khalil Shams and Yunis Nahilah Khoury wants the stories to be specifically human but universally mythical in the sense that the myth points to ultimate truth The stories he tells here are those he s actually heard from survivors in the refugee camps The names are not as important as the identities they contain and the justice they demand Khalil talks about how the names become confused in his mind, and these stories will give the impression of running together, with a sense of timelessness and elliptical narrative that is so peculiar to anything originating in Arabic But what is most important here is that the stories are told, and continue to be told The stories and the freedom to transmit them give life, give existence, provide identity and establishes the foundation necessary for justice

  4. says:

    The issue is war, and war has no beginning I m scared of history that has only one version History has dozens of versions, and for it to ossify into one only leads to death On many occasions Gate of The Sun reminded me of a religious text The Bible or Quran It has the weight, rhythm and repetitions of a solemn text with its invoking of the antecedents the litany of place names and its epic descriptions of Palestinian history although, paradoxically, it is not an epic in its conception, The issue is war, and war has no beginning I m scared of history that has only one version History has dozens of versions, and for it to ossify into one only leads to death On many occasions Gate of The Sun reminded me of a religious text The Bible or Quran It has the weight, rhythm and repetitions of a solemn text with its invoking of the antecedents the litany of place names and its epic descriptions of Palestinian history although, paradoxically, it is not an epic in its conception, indeed a lot of major events are referred to without even being described The structure of the novel is diffuse, there is a loose framework the narrator, Dr Khaleel, addresses his stories and recollections to a man called Yunis, who is lying in a hospital, close to death but there is no central narrative Instead there are a whole series of stories secular parables, you could say which seem to occur to Khaleel in a stream of consciousness fashion as they move between eras and regions and characters, and between being brutal, beautiful and surprising When the narrator says that Yunis saw his life in scattered fragments , it seems a perfect description of the novels structure What Gate of The Sun is not, is a didactic, polemical account of the post 1948 history of the region The book is unashamedly pro Palestinian, but within that viewpoint it is filled with ambiguities There is an Rashomon like aspect to some of the stories, with multiple versions of what might have happened on a particular occasion There is also a mythic quality to many of the stories with a pinch of magic realism The 7 Naheelehs The Man Who Guarded The Lotus Tree The Ice Worms etc Gate of The Sun is a book which will try some people s patience because of the many diversions and the sense of irresolution Just as you are asked to bring some knowledge of the conflicts in that region to your reading of the book, you are asked to bring some of the cohesion too It s not any easy book to read and, like Proust, it dictates its own sense of time It can only be read slowly But I would like to suggest that it is worth your time

  5. says:

    The great Palestinian novel From the Nakba to Oslo, an Odyssey with no homecoming.

  6. says:

    This is a fascinating piece of work, withattention to the style and philosophy than to the substance or politics While it was a pleasure to read in parts, it was a chore getting through some long rambling sections in between It is a large book and if it were half its size, it could have been perfect Overall, I could appreciate the unique way of storytelling but I can see why it would not suit everyone s tastes.Gate of the Sun is told from a first person perspective Khalil is not a real This is a fascinating piece of work, withattention to the style and philosophy than to the substance or politics While it was a pleasure to read in parts, it was a chore getting through some long rambling sections in between It is a large book and if it were half its size, it could have been perfect Overall, I could appreciate the unique way of storytelling but I can see why it would not suit everyone s tastes.Gate of the Sun is told from a first person perspective Khalil is not a real doctor, but he comes to look after Yunes, a local hero, in makeshift hospital Khalil calls him father, but we don t really know what their true relationship is In fact, this is what happens with several relationships in the novel in that we are never sure of their true nature It is pretty confusing for the reader To add to the confusion, certain characters are referred to not just by their different relationships, but by different names Even the sequence of events is all mixed up I think this is intentional by the author It seems to convey that there is no one true perspective of people or events History is in the eye of the beholder If this is it, then it is pretty clever Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was or there wasn t a young man called Yunes. No I have to start from the place you don t know, meaning from here, from the end, because the story can only start from its ending.Yunes has various names Asad, Lion Asad al Asadi, Lion of Lions Yunes, Jonah Izz al Din Abd al Wahid But the wise man pronounces All names are pseudonyms the only true name is Adam.But there isto the confusion While the writing suggests that nothing is what it seems, it might be a reflection of the devastation of Lebanon that was going through How different Beirut must have looked in peace time and in war You think you re in the hospital, but you re mistaken This isn t a hospital, it just resembles a hospital Everything here isn t itself but a simulacrum of itself We say house but we don t live in houses, we live in places that resemble houses We say Beirut but we aren t really in Beirut, we re in a semblance of Beirut I say doctor but I m not a doctor, I m just pretending to be one Even the camp itself we say we re in the Shatila camp, but after the War of the Camps and the destruction of eighty percent of Shatila s houses, it s no longer a camp, it s just a semblance of a camp you get the idea, the boring semblances go on and on.There are many vignettes within the novel, based on many private interviews which the author conducted The mini stories convey a sense of loss, grief and terror People had lost their homes, their loved ones and their way of life It is not just the horror of war that is conveyed, but the violence that reigns in man s heart.The stories are told in a stream of consciousness style, with Khalil having his one sided monologue with the comatose Yunes Devoid of a central storyline or plot progression, it was a bit of a struggle keeping up with it till the end.Historical events like battles, conflicts, massacres, mistreatment and displacements were mentioned at various points It was not chronological so as history, the impact was pretty much lost I had been expecting some kind of a statement about Lebanon or championing the Palestinian cause, but there was none, or else I had missed it While there is a sense of disenfranchisement of the people, there is very little on the Lebanese or Palestinians as a national or racial identity In its place were some rather profound insights from KhouryPalestine isn t a cause Well, all right, in some sense it is, but it isn t really, because the land doesn t move from its place That land will remain and the question isn t who will hold it, because it s an illusion to think that land can be held No one can hold land when he s going to end up buried in it It s the land that holds men and pulls them back toward it I didn t fight, my dear friend, for the land or the history I fought for the sake of a woman I lovedThat s the problem with the Lebanese war It entered the world s imagination pre packaged as insanity When we say that its insanity was normal, the same insanity as in any war, our listeners feel thwarted and think we re lying Even Boss Joseph s story I won t say it didn t happen, it probably did, and there may have been worse outrages The issue isn t what happened but how we report and remember it. Do you believe we can construct our country out of these ambiguous stories And why do we have to construct it People inherit their countries as they inherit their languages Why do we, of all the peoples of the world, have to invent our country every day so everything isn t lost and we find we ve fallen into eternal sleep Beyond the history, it is about the illusory nature of life It is a theme which also appears in the works of Naguib Mahfouz I wonder if it is common in Middle Eastern literature.And finally, while we grapple with the alternative truths of our time, In the beginning, they didn t say Once upon a time, they said something else In the beginning they said, Once upon a time, there was or there wasn t Do you know why they said that When I first read this expression in a book about ancient Arabic literature, it took me by surprise Because, in the beginning, they didn t lie They didn t know anything, but they didn t lie They left things vague, preferring to use that or which makes things that were as though they weren t, and things that weren t as though they were That way the story is put on the same footing as life, because a story is a life that didn t happen, and a life is a story that didn t get told.

  7. says:

    Umm Hassan is dead These are Dr Khaleel Ayyoub s first words to his only patient, the legendary hero of a dozen failed wars for Palestinian liberation, in Galilee Hospital in Shatila But this isn t a real hospital scarcely any supplies or professional staff , Khaleel is not a real doctor though he had some rudimentary medical training in China , and Yunis, or Abu Salim, is not a real hero though famous as lone wolf fighter and is now probably brain dead But Umm Hassan, Mother of Ha Umm Hassan is dead These are Dr Khaleel Ayyoub s first words to his only patient, the legendary hero of a dozen failed wars for Palestinian liberation, in Galilee Hospital in Shatila But this isn t a real hospital scarcely any supplies or professional staff , Khaleel is not a real doctor though he had some rudimentary medical training in China , and Yunis, or Abu Salim, is not a real hero though famous as lone wolf fighter and is now probably brain dead But Umm Hassan, Mother of Hassan , the licensed midwife who knew everything, had told Khaleel he had to talk to the unconscious hero to keep his spirit alive So Khaleel 40 ish, with no family and only tumultuous memories of his own talks to his patient for seven months, inventing Yunis s responses,and spinning a thousand and one stories of Yunis and Palestine s history, from the 1936 Arab revolt on to nearly today The real beginning was the 1948 war when villagers saw their villages erased and were thrown together as refugees and at least partly, tentatively, re imagined themselves as Palestinians, a new found, widely embracing identity for people who didn t know one another nor even speak the same dialects Everything since then has been confusion, shifting alliances, dreaming and longing for a past that cannot be recovered and probably never really existed as they remember it And innumerable wars, against the Israelis, against other Arabs, and against other Palestinins And alliances These tales reworked as fiction by Khoury from his own experiences and his hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of interviews as a journalist in Lebanon are sometimes stunningly sad, even when funny as the characters contradict one another or even themselves in their uncertain memories, vain boasts and magical thinking One especially memorable tale recalled by Khaleel is Umm Hassan s very daring return, across Israeli shoot to kill defense lines, to what had been her village of El Kweikat, now mostly razed to create a modern Israeli settlement of brick houses Her old house is one of the few remaining from the old days, and after long hesitation, she tentatively knocks on the door The woman who opens is about Umm Hassan s age She surprises Umm Hassan by answering her Hebrew greeting in Arabic with a Syrian accent Ella Dweik, the current inhabitant, has guessed that this is not was Umm Hassan s house, and tells her she had been expecting her, and invites her to sit and have some coffee She is another victim of uprooting, a Lebanese Jewess who, when she learns that Umm Hassan has come from Beirut, almost screams with envy she wants nothingthan to return to that city and abandon this desolate patch her husband an Iraqi Jew has brought her to in Israel, while Umm Hassan doesn t even know the Beirut that Ella longs for because poverty and hostility have kept her in Shatila and could hardly adjust to such a hectic, urban environment, but yearns for her beloved El Kweikat.And many, many other stories, of women who have lost their children, young men who try to adapt as Arabs in Israel, betrayals and ingratitudes, and sometimes just the surprising courage of those who insist on living and protecting what they can of their families In the end, after 7 months of Khaleel s one side conversations with the inert hero, he slips out of the hospital to fetch photographs from Yunis s apartment, thinking they may help restore him to consciousness photos of Yunis s long suffering wife Naheeleh, of his children and many grandchildren, half a dozen of them also named Yunis He is stopped on a deserted street of Shatila by a woman in black with a black scarf, like the spirit woman who had so frightened Yunis on one of his earlier adventures she asks him for the house of Elias El Roumi but Khaleel tells her there is no Elias a Christian name in all of Muslim Shatila she asks for a hotel to spend the night, but there is no hotel in Shatila, either, but she accepts his offer to spend the night in Khaleel s house a magical encounter where he is fed and touched by the womanhood he has been longing for, but when he awakens in the morning, there is no trace of her This is the last of the many tales, the character s visit by the unseen Elias El Roumi, Elias Khoury, the author who has from the beginning been hovering around these stories and is occasionally glimpsed, once as the old man El Khouri of the House of Ice, and in other guises A delightful, marvelous, terribly sad invitation to reflect on and review this whole terrible saga of two peoples, Jews and Palestinians, each unwilling or unable to hear the other s story

  8. says:

    I could not finish it It was not able to hold my attention, nor to excite me In addition to that I think that the translation is awful I was never sure who was saying what and whose thoughts I was reading No idea what was going on.

  9. says:

    What Elias Khoury was trying to accomplish with this novel was a noble undertaking to convey the experience of the Palestinians since The Nakba of 1948 the violent expulsion and displacement of the Palestinians from their land and villages to create the future state of Israel literal translation the catastrophe There were parts of this book that were moving and parts that were thought provoking There were even pages I dog eared because they contained such insightful passages However, by What Elias Khoury was trying to accomplish with this novel was a noble undertaking to convey the experience of the Palestinians since The Nakba of 1948 the violent expulsion and displacement of the Palestinians from their land and villages to create the future state of Israel literal translation the catastrophe There were parts of this book that were moving and parts that were thought provoking There were even pages I dog eared because they contained such insightful passages However, by the second half, the book was starting to collapse under its own weight Khoury s approach to telling the story of the Palestinian experience, based on the numerous accounts he heard from refugees in the camps over many years, is to have a narrator, Khalil, the spiritual son of the venerated freedom fighter Yunes who is also known by several other names seek to keep his comatose hero alive by relaying stories of Yunes s life some directly related and some peripheral to either Khalil or Yunes or both What follows is nearly 500 pages of Khalil going from one Palestinian s tale to another with transitions and changes in point of view that are not always easy to follow Add to this the fact that Khalil is not necessarily a reliable narrator and you can imagine why my eyes were glazing over by the second half of this tome Khoury is a talented writer who had a great idea but his method of execution was problematic This novel could have been great as it is hyped to be by so many critics on the cover and inner pages if Khoury had chosen a few characters and their families to tell the story through instead of tediously trying to cram in scores of people

  10. says:

    This book made me think, made me angry, and made me sad all of which were good things This is a story about displaced Palestinians during the formation of the Jewish state, but the story isn t historical or political it s a story about the individual person who didn t really care about the consequences of the Holocaust and the inability of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian to coexist on the same plot of land A compeling story of the atrocities committed in the name of religion and nationalism an This book made me think, made me angry, and made me sad all of which were good things This is a story about displaced Palestinians during the formation of the Jewish state, but the story isn t historical or political it s a story about the individual person who didn t really care about the consequences of the Holocaust and the inability of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian to coexist on the same plot of land A compeling story of the atrocities committed in the name of religion and nationalism and the tragedy of Palestinian exiles Khoury has a very distinct writing style that requires concentration because he switches from narrative to astream of consciousness dialogue, but it s very effective and gives a vicseral sense to his words This is the story of the Palestinian disaspora told from the side of the Palestinians which is rare and wonderful

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