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No One Prayed Over Their Graves: A Novel af…
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No One Prayed Over Their Graves: A Novel (original 2019; udgave 2023)

af Khaled Khalifa (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
442572,856 (2.3)1
"From the National Book Award finalist Khaled Khalifa, the story of two friends whose lives are altered by a 1907 flood that devastates their Syrian village"--
Medlem:SevenThumbsUp
Titel:No One Prayed Over Their Graves: A Novel
Forfattere:Khaled Khalifa (Forfatter)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2023), 416 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

Work Information

No One Prayed Over Their Graves af Khālid Khalīfah (2019)

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Engelsk (1)  Tysk (1)  Alle sprog (2)
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I did not enjoy this book; reading it was a tedious struggle.

The story begins in 1907. Two young men, Hanna Gregoros and Zakariya Bayazidi, return to their village near Aleppo, Syria, to discover that a flood has left virtually all buildings destroyed and nearly everyone dead. Flashbacks then reveal the lives of Hanna, a Syrian Christian, and Zakariya, an Arab Muslim, before the flood. The two used their wealth to build a citadel devoted to the pursuit of pleasures, especially drinking, gambling, and sex. After the flood, Hanna devotes himself to a life of asceticism, becoming obsessed with death and the meaning of life. Zakariya is less willing to repent and give up his libertine lifestyle, but he never abandons his friend.

Though the focus is on these two lifelong friends, the lives of other characters (like Zakariya’s sister, a Jewish friend, and two grandchildren) are also detailed. There are so many characters that it is sometimes difficult to remember who is who. To add to the confusion, there are two characters named William and two named Aisha. And then there’s Maryam and Mariana, both of whom have lost families in tragic circumstances. A family tree would have been very helpful. In the Acknowledgments, the author mentions a friend who “drew up an index of the characters and mapped out the relationships between them.” This index and map would be helpful to the reader.

Because of the number of characters, it is difficult to connect with them. Sometimes characters are mentioned, but there is no explanation as to who they are until pages later. This is the case with Sherko. Sometimes it is difficult to know if a character is important: a lot of information is given about someone, only to have that person never appear again. For instance, do we need to be given so much information about Zakariya’s tailor Monsieur George?

The book can only be described as dense with lengthy paragraphs of exposition, little dialogue, and unnecessary details and tangents. At times the reader may feel buried in details. In an interview featured in The Guardian, Khalifa stated, “It is a novel about lost love, death, contemplation and nature in our lives, about the making of saints, about epidemics, about disasters, about a people’s attempt and struggle to be part of global culture, about the struggle between liberals and conservatives, about the eternal coexistence of this city [Aleppo], about the city at a time when the whole world was seeking to move to a new stage” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/jul/01/khaled-khalifa-all-the-places-of-my-childhood-are-destroyed-no-one-prayed-over-their-graves-novel). Perhaps the problem is that he tried to include too much.

The writing style did not appeal to me. There is constant shifting of timelines from past to ongoing present and between characters – usually with little indication of a shift. Transitions are often missing: “[Shaha] lost weight, and her face grew pale as an old owl’s. Zakariya wasn’t able to extricate his remaining family and friends all from the disaster; they had all shattered. He asked Hanna to pick himself off the floor and go back to his life that was waiting for him. Hanna listened, then asked Zakariya to leave him alone and take care of Shams Al-Sabah who had left that morning.” The connection between ideas is difficult to ascertain.

There are parts that are contradictory or make little sense. For instance, Hanna is told that Mariana “’wasn’t some naïve girl’” yet a couple of pages later the same person tells Hanna that “’she was in some respects still that same naïve girl.’” How can Hanna who is not a priest “give mass”? Some sentences are just bizarre: “Mariana saw Hanna dangling adoringly from Aisha’s eyelashes”?! Zakariya is described as having “Pieces of his body . . . falling off” and Hanna sees “pieces of my body fall off”? A woman has one child but she “surrounded herself and her children with amulets”? A woman spends the night with Hanna and then “got up, washed, changed the bedsheet, and lay down next to Hanna once more as dawn slipped thought the window.” She changes the bedsheet with him in it? A servant can read a name on an envelope and write an address as well, but then asks a man to teach him to read and write?

Perhaps translation is the issue. There are anachronisms like “flash in the pan” and grammatical errors like “I saw furniture that had once been in my house wandering the city.” Words are repeated. Prodigious, for instance is used five times: “prodigious capacity for learning” and “prodigious power” and “prodigious crowd” and “prodigious affection” and “prodigious memory.”

The author writes of his “initial chaotic drafts” but, with all due respect, I’d argue that this final draft is still chaotic. It lacks cohesion and just goes on and on. I can understand why the author, in the interest of fairness, shows each of three religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) as having female fundamentalists, but is it necessary to have three impossible love stories? Others may have a different reaction when reading this book, but I just wanted it to end.

Note: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Jul 17, 2023 |
Hanna Gregorus überlebte als einziger seiner Familie 1876 das grausame Massaker an Christen und fand Aufnahme in der moslemischen Familie Bayazidi. Er wuchs mit Zakaria und dessen Schwester Suad in Aleppo behütet auf, wenn auch Hass lebenslang in ihm brannte. Zu Wohlstand gekommen, gründete Hanna als Erwachsener das Dorf Hosch Hanna und ließ gemeinsam mit Zakaria und dem Juden Azar ein Freudenhaus errichten. Vielweiberei, Lust und Exzesse bestimmten das Leben bis er Josephine heiratete und Sohn Gabriel geboren wurde. Beide kamen bei der großen Flut 1907 ums Leben und erst da wurde Hanna geläutert. - In einem weiten Bogen skizziert Khalifa in verschachtelten Nebenhandlungen mit einer Fülle von Personen in zahlreichen Rückblenden das gesellschaftliche Leben in Aleppo von ca.1850-1950. Zwar leben unterschiedlichste Religionen zusammen, aber keineswegs friedlich. Massaker, Gräueltaten aber auch Naturkatastrophen bestimmen den Alltag. Frauen haben keine Rechte und dienen den Bedürfnissen der Männer. Für ausgebaute Bestände gibt diese recht schwierige Lektüre einen Einblick in die Historie der Region. ( )
  Cornelia16 | Aug 23, 2022 |
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