The Hakawati – Rabih Alameddine


“Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.”

Star Rating : 5/5

The Hakawati could be described as a story within a story, or a memoir of someone’s life along side a rich ancient culture of story telling. Either way this book is a masterpiece and entertaining to say the least. From the first chapter my attention was drawn and kept with the intertwining stories between timelines and the magical, mystical element of ancient history.

The book is mostly focused on a fable of a woman slave named Fatima who is living with an emir and his wife in the the rule of some boastful king deep in the arbaian gulf. It follows her quest to try help the emir and his wife have an heir to their kingdom. Along side this we have a modern day narrative set in Beirut through the eyes of Osama. The Al-Kharrat family are gathered in hospital around Osamas father bed. His grandfather was a well know hakawati (storyteller) and the books follows the life of his family going all the way back to his great grandfather.

This book a collection of stories intertwined giving you a real life experience the art of a hakawati. It feels as if you, like the young grandfather are running from coffee shop to coffee shop listening to the different hakawatis trying to keep track of which story is where but also being severely entertained. The author jumps from one narrative to another without any warning, It seems quite hard to follow but you soon learn to keep up with it all. The narrative of Osamas family tree does get a bit confusing but it all starts to fall in place towards the end. The beauty of this novel was that it incorporates the modern family values alongside the ancient mystical art of old school story telling mixed with poetry and powerful statements;

“How can I witness the suffering of the Palestinian children and remain childhood- innocent? I suffer with them. I’m no longer a child”


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