OUT NOW: Charif Majdalani’s Moving the Palace

March 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Today, New Vessel Press releases Charif Majdalani’s award-winning novel Moving the Palace, the third of a trilogy loosely based on his family history, a.k.a. how I spent my last summer vacation: marching through the Lebanese professor’s fictionalization of his grandfather’s WWI escapades. The titular dwelling is teamstered piecemeal camelback through Northern Africa, and I felt, doing my 3000 words a day, involved in a similar long haul of something I was not quite be able to fathom in its entirety until it was reassembled at the end.

Lithub has an excerpt from the novel’s opening chapter, the first paragraph of which I present here:

This is a tale full of mounted cavalcades beneath great wind-tossed banners, of restless wanderings and bloody anabases, he thinks, musing on what could be the first line of that book about his life he’ll never write, and then the click-clack of waterwheels on the canal distracts him; he straightens in his wicker chair and leans back, savoring from the terrace where he’s sitting the silence that is a gift of the desert the desert spreads in its paradoxical munificence over the plantations, the dark masses of the plum trees, the apricot trees, the watermelon fields, and the cantaloupe fields, a silence that for millennia only the click-clack of waterwheels has marked with its slow, sharp cadence. And what I think is, there may or may not be apricot orchards or watermelon fields, but that is most definitely the desert in the background of the photo, the very old photo where he can be seen sitting in a wicker chair, cigar in hand, gazing pensively into the distance, in suspenders, one leg crossed over the other, with his tapering mustache and disheveled hair, the brow and chin that make him look like William Faulkner, one of the rare photos of him from that heroic era, which I imagine was taken in Khirbat al Harik, probably just after he’d come from Arabia, though in fact I’m not at all sure, and really, what can I be sure of, since apart from these few photos, everything about him from that time is a matter of myth or exaggeration or fancy?

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