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Overview

At the start of this dazzlingly inventive novel from Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Abbas, a world-famous photographer and estranged father to a young novelist—also named Jonas Hassen Khemiri—is standing on a luxurious rooftop terrace in New York City. He is surrounded by rock stars, intellectuals, and political luminaries gathered to toast his fiftieth birthday. And yet how did Abbas, a dirt-poor Tunisian orphan and Swedish émigré, come to enjoy such success?

Jonas is fresh off the ...

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Montecore

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Overview

At the start of this dazzlingly inventive novel from Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Abbas, a world-famous photographer and estranged father to a young novelist—also named Jonas Hassen Khemiri—is standing on a luxurious rooftop terrace in New York City. He is surrounded by rock stars, intellectuals, and political luminaries gathered to toast his fiftieth birthday. And yet how did Abbas, a dirt-poor Tunisian orphan and Swedish émigré, come to enjoy such success?

Jonas is fresh off the publication of his first novel when answers to this question come in the form of an unexpected e-mail from Kadir, a lifelong friend of Abbas and an effervescent storyteller with delightfully anarchic linguistic idiosyncrasies. The portrait Kadir paints of Abbas—from a voluntarily mute boy who suffers constant night terrors, to a soulful young charmer, to a Swedish immigrant and political exile—proves to be vastly different from Jonas’s view of his father. As the two jagged versions reconcile in Kadir and Jonas’s impassioned correspondence, we’re given a portrayal of a man that is at once tender and feverishly imagined.

With an arresting blend of humor and wit, Montecore marks the stateside arrival of an already acclaimed international novelist. Winner of the PO Enquist Literary Prize for accomplished European novelists under forty, Jonas Hassen Khemiri has created a world that is as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Khemiri's inventive, tricky tale charts a Tunisian immigrant's rise from poor orphan to world-famous photographer. The hero, it's suggested, is actually Khemiri's father—and the author seems to know little about the man's life, despite his father's fame. Alongside (intentionally and comically) poorly translated letters to the author from Kadir, the father's childhood best friend, the author rifles through a catalogue of uncertain memories. We soon learn that the father worked his way out of poverty by apprenticing with a Tunisian photographer and later running off with a Swedish flight attendant, the author's mother. But as more becomes apparent about the strange life of the author's father, the stories shared don't always match up—and the reader begins to question Kadir's motives. Each passage varies linguistically, tonally, and stylistically, coalescing to create a vibrant story of culture, class, and family history enlivened by Khemiri's subtle wit and voice. And though the overly elaborate structure can grow tiresome, Willson-Broyles's masterful translation and the energy and freshness of Khemiri's voice make this imaginative book a worthwhile read. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Award-winning Swedish author Khemiri's novel contains such complex layers that at first it is confusing and off-putting. But patient readers will be rewarded. The main character, who shares the author's name, is the increasingly rebellious son of a Tunisian immigrant in Sweden, known here as Abbas. Abbas, a well-known photographer, has disappeared, and his best friend, Kadir, has initiated a correspondence with Abbas's son. Kadir, whose language is stilted and pretentious, wants to write a book in praise of Abbas and enlists Jonas, who is a writer. But their views of Abbas are quite different, and Kadir constantly berates Jonas for his warts-and-all portrayal of his father. Some of the book is amusing, such as the way that Abbas's struggles to succeed as a photographer finally pay off when he decides to specialize in portraits of dogs. Some is inflammatory, especially the depiction of racism regarding immigrants and those of mixed race. The ending is a stunner. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy novels about the struggles of immigrants such as those by Zadie Smith and Monica Ali.—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
Kirkus Reviews

A distinguished, linguistically complex narrative that examines the ordeals of a Tunisian immigrant to Sweden.

Swedish authorKhemiri focuses on issues of racism and adjustment to a new life in the putatively progressive atmosphere of Sweden. The narrative structure is both amusing and multilayered, for one of the narrators is named Khemiri, who like the author is the son of a Tunisian immigrant. Another narrative aspect of the novel involves a hilarious commentary on the story of this immigrant, Abbas Khemiri, by his supposed best friend Kadir, who protests mightily against the son's hostility toward his father. Kadir writes in a fractured English (or Swedish in the original) that the translator has captured brilliantly. Jonas, the estranged son (not to be too confused with the author), is alienated from his father's affection and chronicles the downfall of this relationship with keen and sensitive observations. On moving from Tunisia to Stockholm, the father sets up a business of photographing pets, but to try to "pass" in Swedish society he changes his name to Krister Holmström. His embittered son considers his father a "Swediot" for even trying to blend in with Scandinavian society, and Kadir desperately tries to rescue Abbas' reputation—not a particularly easy task, especially when Abbas eventually moves back to Tunisia and becomes a photographer of Tunisian exoticism, convincing women to pose for the "humoristically erotic" Aladdin and His Magic Tramp and 1,000 and One Tights, a shoot in which Mr. Bedouin, the character they make up to compete with Mr. Bean, "is welcomed extra generously in an oasis by seven sex-starved Saudi aerobics instructors." While the novel is at times genuinely amusing, it also explores serious themes of cultural homogeneity, as Abbas eventually feels his son has become "nothing"—neither Tunisian nor Swedish.

Khemiri adds a distinctive and quirky voice—actually several of them—to contemporary literature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307595324
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jonas Hassen Khemiri, born in 1978, has a Tunisian father and a Swedish mother. He grew up in Stockholm, studied literature in Paris, and was an intern at the United Nations. In 2003, his novel One Eye Red was published to enormous acclaim and received the Borås Tidning Award in 2004 for best literary debut, Sweden’s most illustrious award for a first book. Montecore was awarded Sweden’s highest honor for a young novelist, the PO Enquist Literary Prize, in 2006. Khemiri lives in Stockholm.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    G.laster

    Good book

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