The Sleeper’s Face

The Sleeper's Face

Publishing House: Dar Al-Saqi

Publication Year: 2011

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 175

The Sleeper’s Face” by novelist Abdullah Thabit tells the story of a Saudi man in his mid-forties, who has faced early tragedies in his life that led others to see him as disturbed and troubled.

He ends up living only with himself, resentful of everything and everyone, with his own unique perspective on existence and life.

He frequently travels to Mount Lebanon, where he finds a small place for his secrets. There, a mystical relationship develops between him and a Lebanese girl, existing only in the realm of the unseen, never materializing in reality.

“The Sleeper’s Face” suggests that the unseen does not follow laws but has its own characteristics. Abdullah Thabit attempts to deeply observe the nature of this unseen through various paths:

The dreams seen by the sleeper, and the snippets he collects or writes, then places in a hole in a house in Mount Lebanon. By chance, the Lebanese girl discovers them, reads all his snippets, follows him, and is affected by his secrets and his painful life.

All this happens without his knowledge, until she falls in love with him in the realm of the unseen. Meanwhile, the man lives with the certainty that an unknown woman in this existence calls out to him and watches over his life, spending his days addressing and corresponding with her. However, it never occurs to him that this unknown woman lives in the mountain where he hides his secrets, as he has never seen or met her.

The Lebanese girl knows and does not know that she is the unknown woman he dreams of, writes to, and whose life details she sees. Thus, the two live through the fog of the unseen and the unknown.

In “The Sleeper’s Face,” Abdullah Thabit’s poetic capability shines through, making it a novel that approaches the style and emotions of a poetic ode, distinguished by a collection of philosophical and existential visions of the unseen.

The author concludes his novel, divided into numbered “dreams,” with three warnings directed at the reader before closing the book:

A warning about what they call regret: “This warning is for the words that touched the soul from the first note, affecting us like orphans who do not fully remember their names. I address only you, the farmer, saying: Do not forget them, for they will not do so again, and without them, we won’t be able to run in the cloud, like gray horses… Do not forget.”

A nocturnal warning: “Plant your heart in the trunk of a tree but do not trust its shadow… This is the advice of the night.”

A final eternal warning: “Do not sit in the shade of a tree you do not know the way to twice.”

Abdullah Thabit says about the novel: “The Sleeper’s Face” is an event-sparse, idea-rich narrative that proceeds through language, dreams, and the interstices of existence, which might seem absurd. The main character in the work attempts to release her very ordinary secrets in snippets, which might interest no one, and places them somewhere else. It so happens that another woman, from a completely different cultural background, sees this place, discovers its secrets, lives, interacts with, and is affected by it. This also happens in life and its strangeness. 

Read More About Abdullah Thabit

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