The Night Mail

The Night Mail Cover

Author: Hoda Barakat

Publishing House: Dar Al Adab

Publication Year: 2017

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 128

The novel “The Night Mail” by the Lebanese writer Hoda Barakat, published by Dar Al-Adab in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, revolves around the ambivalent self of a group of immigrants and marginalized individuals. It reveals the ugly face of wars and their adverse effects, not only on the economic level but also on the familial level, where everyone suffers from the disintegration of one family, the loss of dreams, and the tearing of the soul. This is conveyed through five letters written by characters that never reached their intended recipients, resulting in a complete breakdown in communication among the members of the same family.

The novel consists of three chapters with several titles in the following order: “Behind the Window,” “At the Airport,” “Conclusion,” “Death of Al-Bustaji,” spanning across 128 pages.

Structured with five secret letters within three medium-sized chapters, the novel maintains a fast-paced rhythm. The first letter is from a lover to his beloved, narrating the disruption of communication between him and his family due to wars. He describes remaining alone and homeless in an isolated place, detached from everyone because he lives without official documents. The second letter is from a lover to her absent partner who failed to meet her as promised years ago. She continues waiting for him in a hotel, revealing details about herself and her past, believing he might be in prison. The third letter is from a son to his mother at the airport, recounting his arrest, torture, and subsequent escape abroad. The fourth letter is from a sister to her brother, sharing her escape from the family home after a divorce, involvement in suspicious relationships, and her preference for this dubious work over her previous job cleaning bathrooms. She eventually faced death and pain during the illegal migration journey. The fifth letter is from a son to his father, expressing his pains and concerns that erupted like an exploding volcano.

The novel concludes with the death of Al-Bustaji, the person responsible for delivering the letters, signifying the disappearance of the postal carrier profession forever. This implies that there is no place for a paper letter.

The novel “The Night Mail” received the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2019 after a strong competition with other novels shortlisted for the award.

Read More About Hoda Barakat

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