UNDYING LOVE, or Love Dies

Jalal Toufic, Author
Jalal Toufic, Author . Post-Apollo $13 (49p) ISBN 978-0-942996-47-0
Reviewed on: 03/31/2003
Release date: 01/01/2002
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Shakespeare, the myth of Orpheus, Sufi poetry and the Qu'ran are not just touched upon lightly here but deeply dissected, rearranged and returned to their transcendent order within Toufic's amorous meditations. By turns mournful and magical, the book meanders through the Los Angeles of a decidedly cultured set, yet seems timeless in breadth, convincing in tone and earned in its broad field of reference. Toufic relishes the paradoxes of love, finding in the absence of the beloved the ripe territory of spiritual contradiction: "Love brings about a stark alteration of the couple's seclusion from the world.... While writing this tonight, am I not serving to advance some other person's desperate waiting for his beloved?" Set pieces include a breathless re-creation of the drama of Orpheus's ascent from hell (he is a much more melancholic, flawed and regretful hero in Toufic's telling) and a ludic, yet compelling discourse on the Islamic creation myth. In the latter, Iblis (the Islamic equivalent to Satan) creates, in a six-day frenzy, the lower emotions (sadness, guilt, idolatry, sloth) to compensate for the suffering he felt from being separated from God. The son of an Iraqi father and a Palestinian mother, Toufic lived in Lebanon for 17 years, and Undying Love is haunted by death, most often seen as a labyrinth down which the beloved has thoughtlessly become ensconced. This short book, written in the high postmodern style that is digressive yet psychologically astute, is also—with its litany of crushed cities, its violent relationship to tradition, its intimacy that can't assuage grieving—a resonant epigraph for war-torn cultures that pass into memory with no formal mnemonic, no epics or stone ruins, to keep them close. (Apr.)

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