In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. As the family gathers, stories begin to unfold: Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching tales are interwoven with classic stories of the Middle East. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the beautiful Fatima; Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders; and a host of mischievous imps. Through Osama, we also enter the world of the contemporary Lebanese men and women whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war, conflicted identity, and survival. With The Hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century.
©2008 Rabih Alameddine (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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"Great book, poor narration"
This is a *wonderful* book, but the narration causes a lot of superficial problems, to the point where I'm switching to the print version. What's consistently most aggravating is the narrator's poor Arabic accent, which is very distracting and just winds up sounding like a bad parody. Also, his English pronunciation can be weirdly off (hearth does not rhyme with earth). And why does he pronounce Baybars without the S? Finally, and most deadly to the narration, there is seldom an adequate pause for section breaks. Only a second or two more would make a huge difference in marking the switch from tale to tale, which is critical in such a carefully woven story.
I listened to 4 hours of 20 hours and 53 minutes.....and then I gave up.
I was confused much of the time. I didn't always know who was speaking. I didn't know if I was listening to a "story"* or the present time thread about Osama al-Kharrat who was back in Lebanon because his father was dying. Or was this now a shift to Osama's youth? Also, I didn't know who was who. Aunts and uncles and cousins - I just couldn't keep them straight. The characters are not properly introduced. I was upset when another new person popped up out of the blue. It felt like I was supposed to remember them.....but I didn't know who they were. Had I forgotten them, or was I supposed to calm down and wait for an explanation? Sorry, but I can take only so much confusion at the same time.
Furthermore, I do not understand how the different threads are interconnected. Why are we being told that and that? How are the themes related?
I am fine with sex in a book, but in this book it just felt dirty or out of place. Again, I would ask, "What was the point of putting that episode in there?" I was never attracted, but instead repulsed.
And then there are the stories! I found them too repetitive, too long and too fantastical. They are not told in one sequence. This too is confusing.
What is this book trying to say? I simply could not follow it. It didn't grab my attention or make me curious. That is a serious problem.
I just do not understand this book!
The audiobook narration by Assaf Cohen was fine…… except there has to be some way of alerting the listener so they can distinguish between the central thread, side threads and the many, many stories. You could pause or use several narrators.
* Hakawati means storyteller in Lebanese.
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