The king of Galilee
| Qanadil malik al jalil
Al dar al arabiya li al ouloum , Lebanon , Beirut , 2011 , 555 pages
Zaher al Omar al Zaydani is the youngest son of a tax collector for the Ottoman Empire, Omar al Zaydani, born and raised in Tiberias, Galilee, in 1689. When Omar al Zaydani dies, Zaher is a young man of about 15. All of Omar’s sons, Saad, Yusef, Saleh and Zaher, gather in order to decide who will take over the father’s role. The eldest son, Saad, should normally inherit this postition, but is hesitant. No one wants to be the tax collector, since it is a risky business to collect taxes and keep the often capricious governors satisfied, at the same time, it is clearly a sign of power, and should stay in the family since it is a considerable source of wealth. They decide to leave this decision to fate. They each light an oil lamp. The first man whose oil lamp dies out will be the new tax collector. Zaher’s fate is decided on this long night following his father’s decease, when his lamp dies out, and he is designated the new tax collector. Zaher embraces his new role fully, thereby frustrating his older brothers who thought he would carry the burden of collecting taxes but at the same time, be easy for them to manipulate. Zaher is the witness to horrifying injustices resulting from the unquestionable authority of the governors. He decides to pay the taxes that are due to the Empire, but prevent the governors of Sidon, then Damascus, from abusing and humiliating the population. Zaher’s vision is that of an independent and peaceful country that would rule itself. It is the start of a life of struggle, full of wars, strategies, intrigues, and plotting, the aim of which is to take as much freedom as possible from the Empire and maintain stability.
Zaher al Omar is an important historical figure, emblematic of resistance and independence. The novel gets into the epic details of Zaher’s quest for independence, depicting the different schemes he got into, in order to secure the success of his enterprise, but also the tensions around him, the jealousies, and finally the treasons, that will put an end to his life.
The novel, written like a tale is told, is divided into short chapters, each of which focuses on one particular event, making the reading of this thick historical book an enjoyable and captivating experience. Apart from the accurate historical events and characters, the book abounds in details of Zaher’s peculiar and admirable personality, as well as many references to the time’s customs, economics and politics.
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World rights available.