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The Hakawatiby Rabih Alameddine
Synopses & Reviews
Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.
A long, long time ago, an emir lived in a distant land, in a beautiful city, a green city with many trees and exquisite gurgling fountains whose sound lulled the citizens to sleep at night. Now, the emir had everything, except for the one thing his heart desired, a son. He had wealth, earned and inherited. He had health and good teeth. He had status, charm, respect. His beautiful wife loved him. His clan looked up to him. He had a good pedicurist. Twenty years he had been married, twelve lovely girls, but no son. What to do?
He called his vizier. Wise vizier, he said. I need your help. My lovely wife has been unable to deliver me a son, as you know. Each of my twelve girls is more beautiful than the other. They have milk-white skin as smooth as the finest silk from China. The glistening pearls from the Arabian Gulf pale next to their eyes. The luster of their hair outshines the black dyes from the land of Sind. The oldest has seventeen poets singing her praises. My daughters have given me much pleasure, much to be proud of. Yet I yearn to see an offspring with a little penis run around my courtyard, a boy to carry my name and my honor, a future leader of our clan. I am at a loss. My wife says we should try once more, but I cannot put her through all this again for another girl. Tell me, what can I do to ensure a boy?
The vizier, for the thousandth upon thousandth time, suggested his master take a second wife. Before it is too late, my lord. It is obvious that your wife will not produce a boy. We must find someone who will. My liege is the only man within theseborders who has only one wife.
The emir had rejected the suggestion countless times, and that day would be no different. He looked wistfully out onto his garden. I cannot marry another, my dear vizier. I am terribly in love with my wife. She can be ornery now and then, vain for sure, petulant and impetuous, silly at times, ill-disposed toward the help, even malicious and malevolent when angry, but still, she has always been the one for me.
Then produce a son with one of your slaves. Fatima the Egyptian would be an excellent candidate. Her hips are more than adequate; her breasts have been measured. A tremendous nominee, if I may say so myself.
But I have no wish to be with another.
Sarah offered her Egyptian slave to her husband to produce a boy. If it was good enough for our prophet, it can be good enough for us.
That night, in their bedroom, the emir and his wife discussed their problem. His wife agreed with the vizier. I know you want a son, she said, but I believe it has gone beyond your desires. The situation is dire. Our people talk. All wonder what will happen when you ascend to heaven. Who will lead our tribes? I believe some may wish to ask the question sooner.
I will kill them, the emir yelled. I will destroy them. Who dares question how I choose to live my life?
Settle down and be reasonable. You can have intercourse with Fatima until she conceives. She is pretty, available, and amenable. We can have our boy through her.
But I do not think I can.
His wife smil
Returning to Beirut after many years in America in anticipation of his father's coming death, Osama al-Kharrat finds a turbulent, war-torn city far different than that he remembers but takes solace in the entertaining stories of his hakawati (storyteller) grandfather, in a novel that brings together imaginative retellings of classic Middle Eastern tales with the world of modern-day Lebanon. 40,000 first printing.
Rabih Alameddine is the author of Koolaids, The Perv, and I, the Divine. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut.
About the Author
Rabih Alameddine was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese parents, and grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon. He was educated in England and America, and has an engineering degree from UCLA and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. He is also the author of the novel Koolaids: Or The Art of War, the story collection, The Perv, and, most recently, I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters. His pieces have appeared in Zoetrope, The Evening Standard and Al-Hayat, among others. Mr. Alameddine, a painter as well as an author, has had solo gallery exhibitions in cities throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. He has lectured at numerous universities including M.I.T and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Mr. Alameddine was the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 2002. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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