Department of Goose Bumps

From the old-by-now article on Khoury in the LRB:

The narrative of the victim must end; it is a disgusting, opportunistic fable that feeds on everyone who feels a need to tell it, whether from overwhelming strength or profound disadvantage. For a moment, Khaleel thinks of the trains that rattled through Syria and Lebanon depositing Palestinians round the suburbs of the cities, where they would settle in camps for half a century – and counting. The echo of other trains in other places is not a call to rehearse futile arguments about who suffered more – that would be succumbing to the single story again. It is simply an acknowledgment, across the battle lines, that the enemy, too, has a history: ‘The whistle rings in my ears. I see the people being led towards the final train. I see the trains, and I shudder.’

Fucking goose bumps. If you haven’t read Gate of the Sun yet, or if you’ve been putting it off, as I have, or if you’re so in love with other Khoury books and think this one is too similar/different, stop. Buy it. Read it.

3 thoughts on “Department of Goose Bumps

  1. I’m reading Gate of the Sun now. Similarities to my novel-in-progress include: (in my book) a grandmother who shows her granddaughter her shroud, (see first page of Gate); a cave which is a major part of the denouement; and my village is marked on the map of Lebanon (Al-Mieh-wa-Mieh) in the book. Gives me the shivers. I’m not going to cut this stuff (I don’t think) because I believe books are conversations; I’m just glad I’m having this conversation with Elias Khoury’s world.

    Basically I am telling some stories from my village that are like the other side of the fence from the characters in Gate.

    Another thing – one of his characters has the same dreams my father used to have, of wandering the hills and wadis of South Lebanon; only the character was trying to get to Palestine, while my father usually was being chased by invading Israeli soldiers in his dreams.

    When I first read Darwish I was shocked at the smell of bread smoke in the morning, because I’d been trying to write about that since childhood; I had a short story in which a New York character is haunted by her Lebanese grandmother’s ghost which announces its presence by the smell of bread smoke. Shit, you mean that’s been done already? Shit!

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