The Ninety-Ninth Floor

Publishing House: Interlink Books

Publication Year: 2016

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 264

“The Ninety-Ninth Floor,” a novel shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015. It delves into the complex life of Majed, a Palestinian who survived the horrific Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982. Subsequently built a new life for himself in the bustling city of New York. Set against the backdrop of the city’s imposing skyscrapers. This novel intricately weaves a tale of survival, love, and the haunting presence of a troubled past.

Majed’s journey from the traumatic experiences in Lebanon to the vibrant world of Manhattan’s computer game industry is a testament to his resilience and determination. Despite his successful career, Majed remains haunted by his past. Particularly the painful memories of the massacre that claimed his pregnant mother’s life. His relationship with Hilda, a Lebanese woman from a right-wing Christian family, becomes a focal point of the story. Bringing to the surface his deepest fears, insecurities, and secrets. The novel employs a multi-voiced narrative to convey the lasting impact of war on individuals. Showcasing how love and passion strive to bridge the divide created by hatred and differences.

“Publishers Weekly” describes “The Ninety-Ninth Floor” as a poignant exploration of Majd’s emotional journey. Grappling with the trauma of losing his mother and his own physical and mental scars. Majd and Hilda’s love story, blooming in New York, faces the test of time and distance when Hilda decides to visit her family in Beirut. The novel questions whether their relationship can withstand the weight of their past and if Hilda will return to Majd.

The novel also presents a thought-provoking dichotomy as expressed by Majd. Being a Palestinian involves either denying one’s roots to progress in life or remaining ever-ready for conflict. As Majd works in New York, his past constantly shadows him. Complicating his relationship with Hilda, whose family’s potential involvement in the massacre adds layers of tension. Hilda’s trip to Beirut raises questions about the future of their relationship and the ability of love to heal deep-seated wounds.

In a blend of personal and political narratives, “The Ninety-Ninth Floor” by Jana Fawaz Elhassan explores the intricacies of a relationship between a Palestinian and a Lebanese in New York. Majd’s struggle with his past, marked by the brutal massacre and the loss of his mother. Contrasts with his present as a successful computer game designer in Manhattan. His romance with Hilda, a Lebanese student of dance and fashion design, is fraught with cultural and historical complexities. Their intense relationship is tested as Hilda revisits Lebanon, prompting Majd to confront his fears and uncertainties about their future.

Elhassan’s narrative moves seamlessly between the present (2000) and the past (1982), offering a vivid portrayal of the Middle East’s overt and hidden tensions. The novel, translated from Arabic, provides an intimate look at the struggles of love amidst the backdrop of war and displacement. The story’s focus on forbidden love and the experience of being a stranger in a new land is a timeless theme in literature, yet Elhassan infuses it with a unique perspective, particularly through Majd’s introspective struggles and the political nuances that define their relationship.

Read More About Jana Fawaz Elhassan

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