Dates on My Fingers

Publishing House: The American University in Cairo Press

Publication Year: 2014

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 192

“Dates on My Fingers,” a novel by Muhsin Al-Ramli, intricately weaves the narrative of Saleem. He is a young man from an Iraqi village who embarks on a transformative journey to Spain. Seeking refuge from the violence and rigid societal norms of his homeland. Saleem’s quest for a peaceful life is abruptly interrupted when he unexpectedly encounters his father, Noah, in a Madrid nightclub. Noah’s presence, markedly different in demeanor and appearance, ignites Saleem’s curiosity. Prompting him to unravel the mysteries surrounding his father’s new life in Spain.

The novel deftly transitions between Saleem’s present in Spain and his past in Iraq. Illuminating his deeply personal experiences of familial love amidst the backdrop of war. A particularly poignant memory is the haunting accidental death of his cousin Aliya, with whom Saleem shared tentative steps towards understanding sexuality. These reflections are not only personal reckonings but also a window into the broader societal challenges faced in Iraq.

Saleem’s journey is marked by a tumultuous reconnection with his father. Leading to a violent confrontation that compels him to reassess his identity and the delicate balance of his newfound stability. Al-Ramli’s narrative skillfully carries the reader between the contrasting worlds of Spain and Iraq. Culminating in a surprising and thought-provoking resolution.

Critically acclaimed, “Dates on My Fingers” offers a vivid portrayal of an Iraq under oppression, transforming recent historical events into universal stories that allow readers to draw their own conclusions and parallels. This fast-paced novel transcends geographical boundaries, delving into themes of youthful love, the aftermath of conflict, and the enduring significance of family honor.

Muhsin Al-Ramli, an Iraqi-born novelist, poet, translator, and academic, writes in both Arabic and Spanish. Exiled in 1993 due to governmental persecution, which included the execution of his brother, Al-Ramli has made Madrid his home. He is a professor at Saint Louis University and has translated several Spanish classics into Arabic. His literary works include plays, poetry, short stories, and novels, with “Dates on My Fingers” being longlisted for the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The English translation of this novel by Luke Leafgren, who learned Arabic during his PhD studies at Harvard University, is his first foray into translation, bringing Al-Ramli’s rich narrative to a broader audience.

Read More About Muhsin Al-Ramli

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