Tag-Archive for ◊ attitude ◊

Author:
• Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Amin Maalouf was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1949, the second of four children, from a family that originated in Yemen. He spent the first years of his childhood in Cairo, Egypt, where his parents lived at the time, before returning to Beirut a few years later. He studied at the French Jesuit school, Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour followed by the Université saint Joseph in Beirut where he read sociology and economics. His father, Ruchdi Maalouf, was a renowned writer, a journalist, a poet and a talented painter as well as the owner of a newspaper. From an early age Amin Maalouf wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Amin Maalouf became an editor for the leading Beirut daily newspaper, El Nahar International, and covered many events around the world, like the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy in September 1974, the last battle of Saigon in March and April 1975, as well as important events in Somalia, Yemen, India and Bangladesh among others.

In 1976, fourteen months after the Lebanese civil war, Maalouf flew to Paris with his wife and three young children, where he worked for the weekly, Jeune Afrique, and became editor in chief while resuming his trips and reporting from all over the world for his weekly. After the big success of his first novel, Leo The African in 1986, he dedicates himself to writing full-time. He still lives in Paris with his wife and three grown-up sons.

Maalouf ‘s mother tongue is Arabic but all his books are written in French. He has written fiction, non-fiction as well as opera librettos and his books have been translated into several languages. In 1993 Maalouf won the oldest and most famous French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, for The Rock of Tanios published the same year. In 1998 he received the European prize of the Essay for In the Name of Identity and in 2010 the Prince of Asturias award of Letters for all his work. In 2011 he was the first Lebanese to become a member of the prestigious Académie française.

Maalouf has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, the University of Tarragona in Spain and the University of Evora in Portugal.

The Rock Of Tanios, based loosely on a true story, intertwines the Lebanese history of 1830 with a legend passed from one generation to another. A world where intrigues, conflicts and competition between the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, France and Britain end in battles on Mount Lebanon. All these factors among others help to forge the destiny of Tanios Kishk, a remarkable and mysterious character.

Tanios, whose hair grows white at an early age giving him the look of a wise man despite being naive, is a tortured soul looking for identity when he fortuitously discovers his illegitimate birth. He is an intelligent, rational teenager who challenges laws and established social conventions. His fate is similar to a Greek tragedy. He seems to inadvertently trigger family, clanic and regional conflicts, which changes everything in the whole area, including people’s lives. He also unexpectedly becomes a useful mediator between leaders, despite his young age.

The story is set in the small Lebanese village of Kfaryabda – the name is fictional but the village is real. The book’s title refers to a rock, shaped like a majestic throne, to which Tanios – when he becomes a mythical figure – ascends, sits on the rock for a short while before disappearing for ever in a mysterious way and, according to the local legend, not seen again. That is why the maleficent rock carries the name of Tanios. The only rock in the area that has a human name and the only rock that children are not allowed to climb for fear of the superstitious belief that they might disappear like Tanios if they sit on it.

The narrator obtained his story from two sources: the three historical, weighty “authentic” documents and his grandfather’s cousin, the ninety-six-year-old Gebrayel, a former history teacher who is passionate about the events of the nineteenth century that took place in his region.

The narrator, the characters and happenings are imaginary, as well as being based in varying degrees on real persons and real events.

Tanios is born in suspicious circumstances. Officially his father is Sheikh Gerios who is highly ranked, being Sheikh Francis’ intendant and yet servile in his attitude and his mother is the very beautiful, Lamia. There are rumours in the village that Tanios is the son of the powerful, patriarchal, feudal lord, the philanderer, Sheikh Francis, ruler of Kfaryabda, who never hesitates to use his “droit du seigneur” over the girls and women villagers.

The Rock Of Tanios is for Maalouf a truly nostalgic return to the roots of his beloved Lebanon in days of yore. Maalouf in his “Author’s Folder” titled: A Forgotten World, says about Lebanon that it’s: “A country of extreme gentleness and extreme violence, a bewildering country…A captivating and unforgettable country, undoubtedly”.

The book is an enchanting, fascinating, colourful, bitter-sweet tale from the nineteenth century, underlining the wisdom and madness of humans, with a background of real Lebanese history, legend, superstitions, rituals, tribalism, love and vengeance, the description of a feudal society based on loyalty. It’s poetically written, with passages like this one: “Fate comes and goes through us like the shoemaker’s needle goes through the leather he is shaping”.

In The Rock Of Tanios the characters are well depicted and moving; an array of appealing personalities contrasting with forceful and devious ones. The story is like one of the One Thousdand And One Night stories, with excentric characters like the strange hawker multeer, Nader who writes philosophical books and brings them to market in the hope of selling them to learned people.

The reader feels like going on an enchanting journey across time and place, similar to Maalouf’s other unforgettable, fascinating and beautifully written novel, Samarkand, which carries us to eleventh century Persia with the story revolving around the famous philosopher and poet Omar Khayyam.

“Have I not sought beyond the legend, the truth? and when I believed to have reached the truth, it was made of legend”. Very succintly put by Amin Maalouf to describe the quintessence of the whole story behind The Rock Of Tanios.

Author:
• Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Francesca Marciano was born and grew up in Rome, Italy in 1955. Her grandfather was a well-known Italian writer and winner of literary awards. Since her childhood Francesca was dreaming of becoming a writer like her grandfather but she gave up her university studies and went to New York to have a six-month film course and ended up staying six years.

She worked as a producer/director for documentaries for the Italian television before she found out that her real vocation was film-making. She also acted in some films and became a writer.

Her first holiday trip to Zanzibar made her fall in love with Africa. Since then, she spends her time between Rome and Kenya, where she has a residence.

Francesca Marciano has written three novels to date :
The End Of Manners in 2009
Casa Rossa in 2003
Rules Of The Wild in 1998

The beautiful young Italian, Esme, is the main character and the passionate, self-observing narrator of Rules Of The Wild. The story is set in modern Kenya and relates the every day life of western expatriates who live a superficial, decadent, purposeless existence in a closed circle community. They get drunk, consume drugs and are devoid of morals. They live in Kenya and yet are completely cut off from the native culture of the place they call home but don’t seem to care. They don’t want to leave because they are captured by the picturesque beauty of the country and because of all the privileges and freedom they have. They don’t contribute to the Kenyan life, they don’t even make African friends, they only have cheap African labourers. The colonial attitude still prevails among the white society in Africa.

The expatriates are aware without being deterred, that they will never belong to Kenya nor be part of it despite falling in love with it. Just like Esme who surmounts her torn feelings towards her two lovers, Adam and Hunter, knowing well that she will never “belong” to either of them.

Esme is first attracted to Adam, the gentle, handsomely rugged, safari leader, a second generation Scot, who is captivated by the fascinating landscape and wild nature and would like to transmit this passion to Esme.

While living with Adam she is charmed by the conceited British war correspondent, Hunter, who after reporting the Somalian and Rwandan genocides becomes cynical about the harshness and injustice in these breathtaking, unspoilt East African countries and transmits the horror of what he has witnessed to Esme, through his copious accounts.

After much wavering between her two very dissimilar lovers, after much suffering and introspection, Esme discovers that her passion lies elsewhere. It lies in the miracle generated everyday by the swooping of birds over the still water, the movement of the clouds, the pink and purple sunrise and the stunningly dramatic orange sunset. Every day this magnificent, heavenly display looks as if perceived for the first time by the observer.

Esme discovers that she feels reborn and free by living so close to such enthralling virgin landscape which is a constant wonder, because she senses that she is part of it. She realises that she is in love with Africa more than anything or anybody. At last, after her wearying quest, she attains her flawless, “elsewhere” and extirpates herself from the past in order to live in harmony and self-abnegation with her surroundings.

Unfortunately, this striking paradisaical setting is heavily obscured by the sad crude reality of how the white Westerners still sustain the colonialist mentality in the African countries and by the rape, pillages and blood baths taking place in the neighbouring Rwanda and Somalia. A dark side of human nature juxtaposed to the beautiful images of an untamed luxuriant African panorama.

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