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Dear Mr. Kawabata Paperback – February 1, 2000

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the author's first novel to be translated into English, a young Lebanese soldier, mortally wounded in the final days of the 1991 civil war, reviews his life while drifting in and out of consciousness. (Al-Daif, who is from a Christian Maronite family, is a lecturer in Arabic language and literature at the Lebanese University in Beirut.) As the nameless narrator recalls his childhood in a traditional village, his years in university, and his time fighting in the civil war, he mentally writes letters to Yasunari Kawabata, the Japanese novelist who killed himself in 1972. The topics discussed in these letters include free will, religion, various political groups, family relationships, and, finally, death. As he tells of his awareness during his conception and birth, our dying narrator also becomes aware of his death, of being placed in a coffin, and of being buried. He hears his mother's laments as well as his deceased father's comments. Well written in concise, eloquent prose, this poignant novel gives the reader many insights into the world of a Middle Eastern man and the many conflicts he faces while maturing into adulthood. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic collections.DLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A dying Lebanese man imagines that he's writing a letter to a Japanese novelist who committed suicide several years earlier. He recounts the significant events of his childhood, recalling being severely beaten by an older neighbor whose religious beliefs were offended by the narrator's assertion that the earth is round and that it orbits the sun (a fact that he had just learned in school). He also describes having his fingers branded with a red-hot poker because he hadn't yet learned to read cursive writing and so cannot read a letter to his illiterate father. He then relives his military experience and attempts to explain his suicidal tendencies to the dead novelist, who, he believes, is the only person in the world who can comprehend his pain. al-Daif's novel is both anguished and poignant as it exposes the chaotic conditions in war-torn Lebanon, where the conflict between religious convictions and modern Western influences have made even the home a battleground. Bonnie Johnston
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Interlink Pub Group (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704381133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704381131
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,073,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

If you are like me, and have never closely encountered Lebanese literature, you are likely to find this book a revelation. From the first pages, the story rises to an emotional height that is sustained throughout the story. That the protagonist addresses himself to the long-dead Japanese novelist only underscores the confusion of his life, as well as a certain detachment from reality.
The reader gets an amazing opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a young Arab man. We walk with the boy through the life in a backwards village that is full of medieval feuds, and is soaked in ancient traditions. We follow the teenager as his quest to fight injustice brings him right into a dangerous and highly politicized war. Finally, we see a tired man looking back at his old self, and trying to make sense out of his own life.
Even though I couldn't disagree more with the protagonist's political goals, I could not help but sympathize with him. It is rare to find a book that can show readers that underneath many actions lie simply the emotions of frustrated young people.
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