Like the 1,001 Nights, The Hakawati veers from the comic to the tragic to the bawdy to the fabulous and back, always pausing on a cliffhanger.
I still chuckle over how the mythic Fatima defeated her would be assailants. How her children turned out still shocks me. Avoid this one if you are sensitive.
Bawdy is a mild word for some of the stories. The point of view switches from a contemporary Lebanese youth, irritating his family by not applying himself, to heroic medieval knights defeating tyrants. Not to mention the awe-inspiring Fatima, not a woman to mess with!
The author ties disparate characters and times together in a virtuoso, poetic symphony. He goes back and forth from today, the lazy narrator, to yesterday, his parent’s courtship, to the middle ages and to a dream time of Arabic legend.
It made me stay up late and laugh out loud. The conspiratorial friendship between the narrator’s mother and uncle is not to be missed.
The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine (2009 reprint) is published by Anchor Books and is available at amazon.com.