To Read Is to Fly

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” 
― Alberto Manguel

 

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Gate of the Sun - Elias Khoury, Humphrey Davies This is a beautifully written novel, in which Khoury draws inspiration from stories he heard from Palestinians in refugee camps. The stories are told from the perspective of Khalil, who is a close friend, almost a son, to Yunes, a Palestinian freedom fighter who is in a coma, a result of a massive stroke. Although others have given Yunes up for dead, Khalil sits vigil by his hospital bedside and recounts stories, in an effort to make sense of their lives, and to make some contact with Yunes.

The novel is written as stream of consciousness, with Khalil often telling different versions of the same stories. He goes back and forth over time, and grapples with the instability of memory and questions of motivation and identity. Although the novel's style requires patience from the reader, I thought it beautifully represented the instability of truth and reality in a refugee camp. He also shows again and again the fervent desire to return home, and the impossibility of that.

Also of interest to me were Khoury's representations of women. He depicts them as strong, and provides vivid examples of the weight they have borne under exile.

Recommended for anyone interested in the Palestinian experience in exile, and for readers who are interested in the instability of memory, and in the role of stories in creating identities.

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