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Learning English : A Novel
Interlink Books

Learning English : A Novel

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Learning English
Author(s): Rachid al-Daif

No matter how hard Rachid tries to recreate himself, to become educated and worldly—to “learn English”—it is impossible for this hip Beiruti with his cell phone and high-speed internet to sever the connection to his past in the Lebanese village of Zgharta, known for its “tough guys” and old-fashioned clan mentality. When the news of his father’s murder, a case of blood revenge, reaches him by chance through a newspaper report, it drags him inescapably back into the world of his past. Suddenly he is plunged once again into the endless questions that plagued his childhood: questions about his parents’ marriage and his own legitimacy, questions he would rather have forgotten and which threaten not only his new lifestyle, but now, according to the protocol of vendetta culture, his very life. The accomplished al-Daif hooks his readers from page one of this, his ninth, novel—partly with pieces and fragments of suspense-filled plot and partly with his typically idiosyncratic narrator, whose bizarre stories, comical asides and uncannily perceptive comments on human nature lead us through this tantalizing, funny, and sober book about the hold the past has on Lebanon, and on us all.

Review(s):
"The two Haydars have rendered a superbly seamless translation and have masterfully captured, and kept up with, the pace of the text. There is a maturity to al-Daif's work; this faultless translation should be acknowledged as one of the best of Arabic fiction reads currently on the market."
A riveting interior monologue by Lebanese novelist al-Daif penetrates the deep-seated anxiety of a middle-aged Beirut-based literature professor after he hears about his father's tribal murder...The Haydars' pristine translation captures Rashid's conflictedness and leaves intact al-Daif's wordplay, making this a fine introduction to Arabic fiction.
[The] translation is a fluent rendering of the Arabic original and abley follows its meandering style, which imitates the inner thoughts of the novel's protagonist, Rashid. The reader is not hooked to the story by a plot, for there is none that is developed in the manner of the traditional novel; the reader is rather hooked by the suspenseful narration itself which represents the thinking of Rashid. The novel's action takes place entirely in Rashid's head before he comes to a decision on what to do. Once he decides, the novel ends. ...In the meantime, we as readers [are] enthralled by novelist Rachid al-Daif's art of suspense, learn from Rashid's train of thought and his memories. Paula and Adnan Haydar are to be congratulated for rendering into beautiful English a version of an interesting novel with symbolic meanings about the hold of the past on modern beings.
This novel... carries the reader along by clear, flowing narrative, unbroken by chapters but touched with mystery and a dark humor. Suggestive of autobiography, it constructs an intriguing portrait of an individual fettered by his past and uncertain of his present, caught in an unending awareness of senseless violence.



ISBN:  9781566566742