The Angel of History

Rabih Alameddine. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2576-7
Alameddine’s novel (following National Book Award–finalist An Unnecessary Woman) is the inner monologue of Jacob, a poet in crisis, as he checks himself into a mental institution for a long weekend, leaving his beloved cat, Behemoth, in the care of a friend. Jacob was born in Yemen to a Lebanese father and Yemeni mother, raised in a Cairo brothel, educated by French Catholics, and lived as a gay Arab expatriate in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS epidemic—an American who insists he doesn’t “do Middle East conversations” and loathes the “poetry of nostalgia” but in whom the complicated experience of migration reverberates. Now interrogated by the specters of Satan and Death, who bring a host of saints to testify on Jacob’s behalf, he spills his history—the lovers who have come before, and his initiation in the queer subculture, maturation as a poet, and deep engagement with literature—until it intersects with global history: the rise of al-Qaeda and wars political and personal, all playing out while Jacob sits in a hospital waiting room, wondering if he’ll ever be called in. It’s not really his sanity, but his identity as a poet, an Arab, and a gay man that hangs in the balance. The novel takes a nonlinear approach that is occasionally messy, but Alameddine brilliantly captures Jacob’s mind as it leaps between memory and the present. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5366-7342-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-8021-2719-8
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