03 November 2007

Ports of Call - Amin Maalouf


Romance between a Jew and a Muslim. The story of the French Resistance in WWII and one of its mysterious couriers. The Arab-Israeli conflict. The fall from grace of Beirut.

Maalouf manages to pack all this and more into less than 200 pages. There is a certain poignancy to a novella, or any short novel. When well written, they hint at setting; they pose questions but don't have answers, allowing readers to pontificate on such subjects for themselves. A short novel is not merely a short story (that is a whole other discussion). One can abridge the Count of Monte Cristo and you would have essentially the skeleton of a novel. A novella - or shorter novel - is sparse for other reasons than lack of substance; their depth is implicit in the telling of the story.

If you lack a historical context to the middle east, I would suggest "From Beirut to Jerusalem" by Thomas Friedman. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to include this information here, in a write up on a fictional novel by a franco-lebanese author. In reading this novel, which is captivating in and of itself, I found myself thinking of the conflict of the middle east - the permanence of this conflict seems to be juxtaposed by the fleetingness of the love story that develops in this novel.....

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