The Kingdom of Strangers

Author: Elias Khoury

Publishing House: Arkansas Press

Publication Year: 1996

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 112

Elias Khoury‘s “The Kingdom of Strangers” is a compelling narrative that delves into the heart of war-torn Lebanon. Weaving together a series of intricate tales that span both time and geography. Khoury masterfully intertwines various stories. Each rich in detail and emotion, reflecting the tumultuous history and folklore of the Middle East. Among these narratives are the tragic tale of a Lebanese monk murdered in Jerusalem. The harrowing account of Faysal, an eleven-year-old Palestinian boy who endures the massacre of his family. The unlikely friendship between an Arab and a Jew in New York City, and the poignant love story of Widad, a Circassian girl kidnapped and sold as a maid in Beirut. Later becomes the cherished wife of her buyer, Iskander Naffaa.

Set against diverse backdrops such as the Dead Sea, the hills of Jerusalem, the streets of Beirut, remote Lebanese mountain villages, and the alleys of the Shatilla Refugee Camp. Khoury’s novel is a vivid exploration of the myriad legends and folk tales intrinsic to these places. Through his narrative, Khoury seeks to uncover how truths transform into myths and stories. Offering a deeper understanding of the region’s complex history and cultural identity.

The novel’s mosaic-like structure is not just a portrayal of Lebanon during its civil war. It expands to encompass a broader examination of the chaos and despair experienced by families across the world during times of conflict. While Khoury’s work is sometimes criticized for its rhetorical questions and direct authorial statements. The story of Widad stands out as a strikingly dramatic and moralizing-free narrative. Highlighting the emotional depth and the broader implications of the novel.

Khoury’s “The Kingdom of Strangers” thus emerges as a powerful exploration of human experiences during wartime. Transcending the confines of its Lebanese setting to resonate with a universal audience. The novel’s intricate tapestry of stories, characters, and settings not only sheds light on the specific struggles of the Lebanese civil war but also speaks to the broader human condition in times of conflict. Offering a poignant reflection on the enduring impact of war on individuals and communities.

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