Finalist for the National Book Award in Translated Literature
Khaled Khalifa’s Death Is Hard Work is the new novel from the greatest chronicler of Syria’s ongoing and catastrophic civil war: a tale of three ordinary people facing down the stuff of nightmares armed with little more than simple determination.
Abdel Latif, an old man from the Aleppo region, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. His final wish, conveyed to his youngest son, Bolbol, is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya. Though Abdel was hardly an ideal father, and though Bolbol is estranged from his siblings, this conscientious son persuades his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and the body to Anabiya, which is—after all—only a two-hour drive from Damascus.
There’s only one problem: Their country is a war zone.
With the landscape of their childhood now a labyrinth of competing armies whose actions are at once arbitrary and lethal, the siblings’ decision to set aside their differences and honor their father’s request quickly balloons from a minor commitment into an epic and life-threatening quest. Syria, however, is no longer a place for heroes, and the decisions the family must make along the way—as they find themselves captured and recaptured, interrogated, imprisoned, and bombed—will prove to have enormous consequences for all of them.
"[A] brilliant, blackly absurdist road-trip novel, a restaging of As I Lay Dying in the thick of the world’s most brutal civil war."—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Astonishing . . . The journey recalls Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the long last ride of Addie Bundren; like Faulkner too, Khalifa employs a shifting array of voices and reflections, moving from perspective to perspective, present to past and back again. The effect is a persistent deepening, as stories are introduced and then revisited, details added through the play of memory . . . The power of the novel . . . is that it unfolds within a human context, which pushes against and resists the prevailing social one. What other option do we have?"—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
Reviews from Goodreads
IF YOU WEREA SACK OF CUMIN
Two hours before he died, Abdel Latif al-Salim looked his son Bolbol straight in the eye with as much of his remaining strength as he could muster and repeated his request to be buried in the cemetery...