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Montecore: The Silence of the Tigerby Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Synopses & Reviews
At the start of this dazzlingly inventive novel from Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Abbas, a world-famous photographer and estranged father to a young novelist—also named Jonas Hassen Khemiri—is standing on a luxurious rooftop terrace in New York City. He is surrounded by rock stars, intellectuals, and political luminaries gathered to toast his fiftieth birthday. And yet how did Abbas, a dirt-poor Tunisian orphan and Swedish émigré, come to enjoy such success?
Jonas is fresh off the publication of his first novel when answers to this question come in the form of an unexpected e-mail from Kadir, a lifelong friend of Abbas and an effervescent storyteller with delightfully anarchic linguistic idiosyncrasies. The portrait Kadir paints of Abbas—from a voluntarily mute boy who suffers constant night terrors, to a soulful young charmer, to a Swedish immigrant and political exile—proves to be vastly different from Jonass view of his father. As the two jagged versions reconcile in Kadir and Jonass impassioned correspondence, were given a portrayal of a man that is at once tender and feverishly imagined.
With an arresting blend of humor and wit, Montecore marks the stateside arrival of an already acclaimed international novelist. Winner of the PO Enquist Literary Prize for accomplished European novelists under forty, Jonas Hassen Khemiri has created a world that is as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating.
"Khemiri's inventive, tricky tale charts a Tunisian immigrant's rise from poor orphan to world-famous photographer. The hero, it's suggested, is actually Khemiri's father — and the author seems to know little about the man's life, despite his father's fame. Alongside (intentionally and comically) poorly translated letters to the author from Kadir, the father's childhood best friend, the author rifles through a catalogue of uncertain memories. We soon learn that the father worked his way out of poverty by apprenticing with a Tunisian photographer and later running off with a Swedish flight attendant, the author's mother. But as more becomes apparent about the strange life of the author's father, the stories shared don't always match up — and the reader begins to question Kadir's motives. Each passage varies linguistically, tonally, and stylistically, coalescing to create a vibrant story of culture, class, and family history enlivened by Khemiri's subtle wit and voice. And though the overly elaborate structure can grow tiresome, Willson-Broyles's masterful translation and the energy and freshness of Khemiri's voice make this imaginative book a worthwhile read. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Jonas Hassen Khemiri, born in 1978, has a Tunisian father and a Swedish mother. He grew up in Stockholm, studied literature in Paris, and was an intern at the United Nations. In 2003, his novel One Eye Red was published to enormous acclaim and received the Borås Tidning Award in 2004 for best literary debut, Swedens most illustrious award for a first book. Montecore was awarded Swedens highest honor for a young novelist, the PO Enquist Literary Prize, in 2006. Khemiri lives in Stockholm.
He has been hailed as one of the greatest writers of his generation in Sweden, and now we have the first of his novels to be translated into English: a luminous mock-historical epic about a Tunisian immigrant in Sweden who may or may not be the author’s own father.
Papa is the superhero of Montecore, a world-famous photographer whom we meet on the first page, pacing up and down the terrace of his luxurious Manhattan loft. How, we might wonder, did a dirt-poor Tunisian orphan achieve such cosmic success? And how is it that Jonas doesn’t know? The answers begin to form when Kadir, Papa’s best friend from the old days, starts writing long letters to Jonas in Stockholm, telling him about his father’s youth in Tunisia and how he became famous. Jonas writes back with memories of his own childhood with Papa in Sweden, and, gradually, their curious, passionate letters create two interlinked but jaggedly different faces of a vanished man.
Witty, dazzlingly inventive, with a heartbreaking storyteller’s gift, Montecore marks the debut in English of a blazing international talent.
About the Author
Jonas Hassen Khemiri, born in Sweden in 1978, is the author of two novels and one collection of plays and short stories. His first novel, One Eye Red, received the Boras Tidning Award for best literary debut. His second, Montecore, won several literary awards including the Swedish Radio Award for best novel of the year. Khemiri has also received the PO Enquist Literary Prize for the most promising young European writer. He currently divides his time between Stockholm and Berlin.
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