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Gate of the Sun

Elias Khoury; Translated by Humphrey Davies

Picador

0312426704

9780312426705

Trade Paperback

544 Pages

$20.00

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A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
One of Kansas City Star's 100 Noteworthy Books of the Year
A Boldtype Notable Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
 
Drawing on the stories he gathered from refugee camps over the course of many years, Elias Khoury's epic novel Gate of the Sun has been called the first magnum opus of the Palestinian saga.
 
Yunes, an aging Palestinian freedom fighter, lies in a coma. Keeping vigil at the old man's bedside is his spiritual son, Khalil, who nurses Yunes, refusing to admit that his hero may never regain consciousness. Like a modern-day Scheherazade, Khalil relates the story of Palestinian exile while also recalling Yunes's own extraordinary life and his love for his wife, whom he meets secretly over the years at Bab al-Shams, the Gate of the Sun.

REVIEWS

Praise for Gate of the Sun

"After Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun, readers can no longer pretend that Palestine is merely a fugitive state of mind, a convenient Arab myth, a traumatic tribal memory, and somebody else's problem. This remarkable novel out of Lebanon, a skillful reshuffling of the 1001 Nights with a doctor in a refugee camp playing the part of Scheherazade, fills in the blank spaces on the Middle Eastern map in our Western heads."—John Leonard, Harper's
 
"Few have held to the light the myths, tales, and rumors of both Israel and the Arabs with such discerning compassion . . . Gate of the Sun is an imposingly rich and realistic novel, a genuine masterwork."—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Khoury's great ability . . . is to merge Khalil's tragic love for a revolutionary woman who is assassinated with the tragic love of the Palestinians for their land . . . [He] provides, as little else can, a window into the thinking of Palestinians, and a touching, powerful glimpse of their unique place in world history.”—Amy Wilentz, Los Angeles Times
 
“Khoury opens up a whole new territory, envisioning a place where confronting pain and suffering might lead, if not to reconciliation, then at least to recognition of the other in oneself, even as it gets harder every day.”—The Village Voice
 
"Humanity and compassion are what give this rich and teeming narrative its shape, creating a work that in its essence is a heartfelt plea for sanity and peace."—The Christian Science Monitor
 
"The Stories are not propaganda—they are the all too real lives of people yearning for justice or escape; whose plight lies at the heart of so much conflict in the Middle East and beyond. Perhaps only a novelist could tell it this way."—The Times (London)
 
"In Gate of the Sun a character dreams of writing a 'book without a beginning or end . . . an epic of the Palestinian people,' based on the stories of every village, and starting from the 'great expulsion of 1948.' Elias Khoury's monumental novel is in a sense that groundbreaking book."—The Guardian (U.K.)
 
"Absorbing epic of the Palestinian people. Khoury, born to a Lebanese Christian family, steals a page from the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, his narrator not a Scheherazade preserving her virtue but a Palestinian doctor who tells winding tales in hope of keeping alive an old friend, comatose in a refugee-camp hospital. The sleeping man, it seems, is meant to represent his people, victims of the Nakba, or 'catastrophe,' of 1948: as Dr. Khalil observes, with some exasperation, 'Why do we, of all the peoples of the world, have to invent our country every day so everything isn't lost and we find we've fallen into eternal sleep?' But Dr. Khalil himself is awake and alive, and very much observant. His stories, one building on the next, become a history and ethnography of the Palestinian people from that year of massacres and flight to the post-1967 loss of even the hope of a homeland and on to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon: A woman explains that she has a duty to return to her ancestral village so that she can shake the souls of the abandoned dead out of the trees, while another explains the small victory attendant in finding vintage olive oil in the homes of those forced to flee—and no worries, either, for 'We don't get high cholesterol. Peasants are cholesterol-proof.' Though Khoury's sympathies are evident, he takes a wide and mostly evenhanded view of things political. There are admirable characters of every stripe and tribe, and a few not-so-admirable ones as well, living side by side if not always comfortably; by the close of the book, Dr. Khalil is reporting on the children of the Shatila refugee camp, one of whom 'is studying business management at Tel Aviv University and is getting ready to marry a Christian.' Well received internationally—not least in Israel—Khoury's novel reports events little known outside Palestine, woven into an elaborate but effective structure."—Kirkus Reviews
 
"First published in 1998 in Arabic by a Beirut publisher, and then translated into Hebrew and French, this book was Le Monde Diplomatique's Book of the Year in 2002; Khoury's ambitious, provocative, and insightful novel now arrives in the U.S. Well researched, deeply imagined, expressively written and overtly nostalgic, the book uses the lyrical flashback style of 1001 Arabian Nights to tell stories of Palestine. At a makeshift hospital in the Shatila refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut, Dr. Khalil sits by the bed of his gravely ill, unconscious friend and patient, Yunes, a Palestinian fighter, and reminisces about their lives in an attempt to bring him back to consciousness. The collage of stories that emerges, ranging from the war of 1948 to the present, doesn't have a clear beginning or end, but narrows the dizzying scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to comprehensible names and faces, including sympathetically tough and pragmatic women. Davies has translated Naguib Mahfouz and does a nice job with the lyrical, outsized text. Khoury, born in 1948 in Beirut, has authored 11 other novels (The Little Mountain and The Kingdom of Strangers are available in translation) and published numerous essays; he now teaches at NYU each spring. A film version of the book was shown in New York in 2004."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One Umm Hassan is dead. I saw everyone racing through the alleys of the camp and heard the sound of weeping. Everyone was spilling out of their houses, bent over to catch their tears, running. Nabilah, Mahmoud al-Qasemi's wife, our mother, was dead. We called her mother because everyone born in the Shatila camp fell from their mother's guts into her hands. I too had fallen into her hands, and I too ran the day she died. Umm Hassan came from al-Kweikat, her village in Galilee, to become the only midwife in Shatila - a woman of uncertain age and without children.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Elias Khoury; Translated by Humphrey Davies

  • Elias Khoury is the author of eleven novels including The Journey of Little Gandhi, The Kingdom of Strangers, and Yalo. He is a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University, and editor in chief of the literary supplement of Beirut’s daily newspaper, An-Nahar.
  • Elias Khoury Nina Subin
    Elias Khoury
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