Douaihy’s June Rain is now out in German, at Hanser! – Thur gauerzeitung’s review (in English)

6 August 2012 193 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

By Angela Schader, for Thur gauerzeitung, July 31st, 2012

Excerpts translated with the help of Google:

Jabbour Douaihy grew up in the district of Zgharta in northern Lebanon. As in the whole country, at the end of the 1950s, the local population split increasingly in followers of the Christian, Western-oriented president Camille Chamoun and sympathizers of Syria, Egypt and the Arab unity movement. In Lebanon, putting aside these political affiliations, another network of fault lines can be seen across the borders of the precariously balanced combination of different faiths…

In Zgharta there were the clans of Douaihy and Karam on the one hand, the Frangieh and Muawad on the other. On June 16th 1957 there was a shootout that claimed over 20 lives and left many injured and many more shocked that it had happened on holy ground – namely in and around the Notre Dame church in the village of Miziara. This event is the dark heart of Douaihys novel.

Douaihy’s is a tragically fragmented approach to home with a fractured kaleidoscopic narrative that casts different sides of a spotlight on the central event. The protagonist of the story is Elijah, literally a son of the disaster. His mother Kamleh had longed for years to receive a child, and falls pregnant on the night before the massacre, in which even her husband Yousef was killed… Fearing in the mid-1960s, a further rise in tensions, which led to the outbreak of almost twenty years of civil war, they sent the boy first in a boarding school, then abroad. Elijah grows aimlessly and is incapable of any emotional connection to go through life…

One hesitates to call Elijah’s story the main plot, although it does hold this function in the novel. This soul-empty protagonist is rather like a Stendhal’s mirror, carried through the shattered Lebanese society…

Douaihy succeeds in going under the skin of individual portraits. Those that are damp to the soul, like that of Muhsin, who spends more than three months at a roadblock, day after day with nerves scavenging slowness, his rifle targets but never gives off a shot – until he is dead sure that his bullet finds his way through a tiny opening in the enemy barricade. There also are dazzling character sketches like that of the tailor’s apprentice Farid, whose passion is distributed equally among his fashionable appearance, his weapon, and the young widow whom he seduces at night after a rough courtship ritual. Touching and disturbing is the portrait of Samih the baker, who because of his loyal clientele preservers on the opposite side of the green line, before he finally falls victim of of such senseless as cowardly blood revenge. There also is the profile of the proud, torn Kamleh, from whom more power emanates than from the parade of all male characters…

Douaihys novel is not without some length, but it conveys a deep and – paradoxically – human insight into a rural world that is, almost against the will of its inhabitants, a greenhouse of hate. And the ghosts that he evokes are not yet come to rest.

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