The Parisian

The Parisian

by Isabella Hammad

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802129437
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 28,244
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.50(d)

About the Author

ISABELLA HAMMAD was born in London. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction for her story “Mr. Can’aan.” Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review. The Parisian is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

There was one other Arab onboard the ship to Marseille. His name was Faruq al-Azma, and the day after leaving port in Alexandria he approached Midhat at breakfast, with a plate of toast in one hand and a string of amber prayer beads in the other. He sat, tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, and started to describe without any introduction how he was returning from Damascus to resume his teaching post in the language department of the Sorbonne. He had left Paris at the outbreak of war but after the Miracle of the Marne was deter-mined to return. He had grey eyes and a slightly rectangular head.


“Al-Baris.” He sighed. “It is where my life is.”


To young Midhat Kamal, this statement was highly suggestive. In his mind a gallery of lamps directly illuminated a dance hall full of women. He looked closely at Faruq’s clothes. He wore a pale blue three-piece suit, and an indigo tie with a silver tiepin in the shape of a bird. A cane of some dark unpainted wood leaned against the table.


“I am going to study medicine,” he said. “At the University of Montpellier.”


“Bravo,” said Faruq.


Midhat smiled as he reached for the coffeepot. Muscles he had not known were tense began to relax.


“This is your first visit to France,” said Faruq.


Midhat said nothing, assenting.

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The Parisian 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
miss_mesmerized 15 days ago
When Midhat Kamal leaves his home town Nablus for France, he doesn’t know that the old continent is on the verge of World War I. The young Palestinian starts his studies in medicine close to the Mediterranean where he also gets his first insight in the French culture and society. He soon has to realise that not only the world is in a very fragile state but also that in private life coalitions change quickly and even though at the beginning of the new century, people are eager to explore the world and foreign cultures, this does not mean that people are open to consider someone from the Middle East their equal. From France, he returns only to learn that also is home country is not an easy place to live. When opening the book I was already astonished by the sheer number of characters listed. Yet, this turned out to be only one of the factors that made the novel quite hard to read for me. I also could hardly relate to the protagonist who, in my opinion, was stubborn and narrow minded. Third, Isabella Hammad simply wanted too much for my liking. Setting a love story against world politics is one thing, but it rarely works to write a convincing story on several levels – the personal, the societal and the political – without losing focus. I found the story quite lengthy and thus boring. Additionally, the intercultural conflicts and misunderstanding between the characters could have provided a lot of food for thought, yet, in my view, much of them were drawn too stereotypically and reduced to one or two features to actually provide grounds for discussion.