A House at the Edge of Tears

Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Graywolf Press




128 Pages



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In A House at the Edge of Tears a sister struggles to carry on the legacy of her brother's budding talent for writing. Only she can save her brother's poems from her tyrannical father's beating-induced psychosis. A semi-autobiographical account from National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Vénus Khoury-Ghata, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker.

In the city of Beirut, five shabby dwellings circle a courtyard with a pomegranate tree weeping blood red fruit. The residents hear screams in the night as a boy is beaten by his father—a punishment for masturbating in his sleep. A crime not worthy of the punishment: the neighbors gossip and decide that he must have tried to rape his sisters. The poems he writes are perhaps an even greater crime to his father, but ultimately a gift to his eldest sister, who narrates their story with a combination of brutal truth and stunning prose. As her brother becomes more and more lost to his family and to himself, we also learn of a Contessa who teaches tango, a family who spends every Sunday in search of buried treasure, and the miracle of a weeping Madonna statue that cries when human tears run dry.

In this novel, novelist and poet, Khoury-Ghata, presents the disintegration of a family and a country—both ruled by a fury fueled by fear.


Praise for A House at the Edge of Tears

"I found A House at the Edge of Tears stunning and provocative, compelling and haunting. Vénus Khoury-Ghata has weaved like a lace maker the story of her brother, herself, her family, and a society far removed from any bland ideal . . . using the finest, poetic, hypnotic prose which pricks you like needles."—Hanan al-Shaykh

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Translated by Marilyn Hacker

  • Vénus Khoury-Ghata is a Lebanese poet and novelist, resident in France since 1973, author of many collections of poems and novels. She received the Prix Mallarmé in 1987 for Monologue du mort, the Prix Apollinaire in 1980 for Les Ombres et leurs cris, and the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres for Fables pour un people d'argile in 1992. Her Anthologie personnelle, a selection of her previously published and new poems, was published in Paris by Actes Sud in 1997. Her most recent collection, Quelle est la nuit parmi les nuits, was published by Mercure de France in 2004. Her work has been translated into Arabic, Dutch, German, Italian and Russian, and she was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 2000.