The Parisian

The Parisian

by Isabella Hammad

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A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence. Lush and immersive, and devastating in its power, The Parisian is a tour de force from a dazzling new voice in fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802148803
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 12/17/2019
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 66,778
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

ISABELLA HAMMAD was born in London. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction for her story “Mr. Can’aan” and a 2019 O. Henry Prize. 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 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
miss_mesmerized More than 1 year 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.
HollyLovesBooks4 More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written book and interesting from the historical perspective. However, there were some character issues, with surprising decisions coming from the characters. In addition, the pacing was slow at times and seemed to need more editing to improve it. I enjoyed the atmosphere and history but the pace and points of view were bothersome and distracting. #TheParisian #NetGalley
CSGreedyReader More than 1 year ago
"The Parisian" is set in an interesting period, in France right before the outbreak of World War I, and Palestine after the old Ottoman Empire has been carved up by the victors. It's a lovely piece of historical fiction set in a time and place that your don't frequently read about. Midhat Kamal is sent to France to study medicine by his autocratic, absent father. He goes, because it is his duty, and makes the most of it, throwing himself into his studies and making friends among the French. He even falls in love among the French, and which will prove to be the telling event of his life. When the war is over and he returns to Nablus, Midhat understands that his study of medicine, or literature or philosophy will mean nothing in his next step of duty, taking over the family clothing business which is pretty much a market stall. He does not look back or yearn, instead he focuses on reconnecting with family and old friends, marrying, and living the new Palestine, reconfigured in a strange way after the defeat of the Ottoman empire. The first part of "The Parisian" when Midhat is in Montpellier and Paris is pure gold as the bright, curious young man explores a new culture, new friends, new freedoms. When he returns to Nablus, he is no longer exploring, he is rediscovering. He is in a market stall in a small provincial town. He's a young Muslim man doing his duty, marrying a veiled girl and fathering children. He is focused on this and is not distracted, even when geopolitics can no longer be ignored. And he finds a letter. His world blows up. Here' the novel gets tangled. There's a lot of Arabic, and a lot of politics. It's a good reminder of the background for today's middle eastern conflict, but the story is much more compelling when it focuses on the Kamals and their internal and external lives. 4.5 stars. I read with pleasure and skimmed the Arabic.