Death Is Hard Work

Khaled Khalifa, trans. from the Arabic by Leri Price. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-13573-7
Khalifa’s novel compellingly tackles the strain of responsibility felt by a man in war-torn Syria. After his father, Abdel Latif, dies in hospital, 40-something Bolbol gathers his estranged siblings Hussein and Fatima and, with the corpse in the back of Hussein’s minibus, sets off from Damascus to honor Abdel’s deathbed wish to be buried alongside his sister in the village of Anabiya. Though the distance is short, the quartet’s quest is frequently interrupted by violence and corrupt military checkpoints, forcing the journey to stretch over days, during which time Abdel’s body bloats beneath its burial shroud. Khalifa (No Knives in the Kitchens of This City) punctuates repetitious roadblocks with segues detailing the histories of all four characters. For example, after taking refuge at the home of a former girlfriend, Bolbol reminisces about his father’s own pursuits of an old flame; and later, Hussein’s teenage abandonment of his parents and siblings crops up while their adult counterparts contemplate the purpose of fulfilling Abdel’s request. The narrative choice to summarize conversation indirectly, rather than placing the dialogue directly on the page, might distract some readers. Nonetheless, the novel is at times harrowing—the family flees wild dogs and faces masked guards—and serves as a reminder of the devastation of war and the power of integrity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/03/2018
Release date: 02/12/2019
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68441-863-3
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X