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Gate of the Sun Hardcover – January 3, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1998 in Arabic by a Beirut publisher, and then translated into Hebrew and French, this book was Le Monde Diplomatique's Book of the Year in 2002; Khoury's ambitious, provocative, and insightful novel now arrives in the U.S. Well researched, deeply imagined, expressively written and overtly nostalgic, the book uses the lyrical flashback style of 1001 Arabian Nights to tell stories of Palestine. At a makeshift hospital in the Shatila refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut, Dr. Khalil sits by the bed of his gravely ill, unconscious friend and patient, Yunes, a Palestinian fighter, and reminisces about their lives in an attempt to bring him back to consciousness. The collage of stories that emerges, ranging from the war of 1948 to the present, doesn't have a clear beginning or end, but narrows the dizzying scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to comprehensible names and faces, including sympathetically tough and pragmatic women. Davies has translated Naguib Mahfouz and does a nice job with the lyrical, outsized text. Khoury, born in 1948 in Beirut, has authored 11 other novels (The Little Mountain and The Kingdom of Strangers are available in translation) and published numerous essays; he now teaches at NYU each spring. A film version of the book was shown in New York in 2004.
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List Muse's Top 100 Novels of All Time, #68

"For Khoury, those who live their lives enshrouded in death and political instability deserve a voice, and like few before him, he takes up their cause with a fearlessness that we can only marvel at, hoping that maybe in the near future, books like Khoury’s won’t have to be written." — Keenan McCracken, Music and Literature

"Because the world is the way it is, because whole groups of people can be maligned, neglected, ignored, for too many years, we need the voice of Elias Khoury—detailed, exquisite, humane—more than ever. Read him. Without fail, read him." —Naomi Shihab

"Nye Elias Khoury . . . is an artist giving voice to rooted exiles and trapped refugees, to dissolving boundaries and changing identities, to radical demands and new languages. From this perspective Khoury’s work bids Mahfouz an inevitable and yet profoundly respectful farewell." —Edward Said

"There has been powerful fiction about Palestinians and by Palestinians, but few have held to the light the myths, tales and rumors of both Israel and the Arabs with such discerning compassion. In Humphrey Davies' sparely poetic translation, Gate of the Sunis an imposingly rich and realistic novel, a genuine masterwork." —New York Times Book Review

"In Gate of the Sun a character dreams of writing a ‘book without a beginning or end...an epic of the Palestinian people,’ based on the stories of every village, and starting from the ‘great expulsion of 1948.’ Elias Khoury’s monumental novel is in a sense that groundbreaking book." —The Guardian (UK)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 539 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago; 1st edition (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976395029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976395027
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #595,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The following review in the NY Times is a good review of the novel. I strongly recommend. Whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Arab or American, a must read.

New York Times


Published: January 15, 2006

TO Americans, the novel in Arabic remains on the margins. Nonfiction devoted to the Arab world may be in demand, but interest in Arab literature, even after Naguib Mahfouz's Nobel Prize in 1988, hasn't moved too far past Aladdin and Sinbad.

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Maria Söderberg

Elias Khoury


Elias Khoury is one of a handful of contemporary Arab novelists to have gained a measure of Western attention. He is also one of the few to write about the Palestinian experience, albeit from the perspective of an outsider. As a Christian born in Beirut in 1948, at the moment of Israel's inception, Khoury was too young to know firsthand the events that "Gate of the Sun" encompasses. Unlike the Palestinian novelists Emile Habibi and Ghassan Kanafani, who were born earlier in the century, Khoury could not rely on his own memory. To write this novel, he spent considerable time in the camps - more accurately, concrete exurban slums - throughout the Middle East, interviewing Palestinian refugees.

Narrated by a peasant doctor talking to a comatose, aging fighter, "Gate of the Sun" relates a swirl of stories: of grandmothers and grandfathers, midwives and children, wives and lovers - the lucky and the hapless, the mad and the hopeful. Employing a strategy that's an inversion of "A Thousand and One Nights" (whose narrator, Scheherazade, tells stories to save herself), Khalil half believes that these stories are keeping his dying friend Yunes alive.
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Format: Hardcover
Elias Khoury weaves a multitude of stories of people, some good, some less so, all flawed in their various ways, into a narrative that makes up the story of a people. One can recognize and identify with the human condition and struggles of each of those individuals, and yet through Khoury's eyes one can also see the whole of the society as it suffers the destruction from being uprooted and exiled by outside forces.

Not just about Palestinians - but about humanity everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
If was there one epic,one literary saga and masterpiece deserving of the tragedy, brutality, betrayal, strength and also beauty that is the Palestinian cause, it is this book. Every page is filled with humanity,regret,passion and the myth that ordinary people fashion for their cause, the myth they need to fashion in order to survive in a world that doesn't care. It is a story of men and women, of love that exists only unfulfilled, of death and self betrayal and the answers that will never be told, that can not be told. There is cruelty and injustice, yet among all the people who have lost their masks, victims and perpetrators, there is no true evil. There is love, yet no one enjoying its bliss without being eluded by its fragility. It is a world of massacres, of lime stained nameless corpses, of heroes turned mad and hair turned white early, but also of beauty, strength and hope that can not die, even in the filth and sorrow stained alleys of a refugee camp. In other words, it is our world.

Yunes, an unflinching hero of the Palestinian resistance,man of countless sacrifices and mentor to forty year old Dr. Khalil,a warm thoughtful man who was among the fedayeen in Lebanon and refused to leave Beirut in 1982, has fallen into a coma. In the almost empty corridors of the neglected Galilee Hospital of the Shatila camp,it is up Khalil to care for him when everyone else has in one way or the other surrendered.They can not understand why Khalil would care so tenderly for what they call a corpse. In a world turned up side down by endless war, they have learned to leave it to God. Not so Dr. Khalil. His refusal to let Yunes be taken home in order to die is his way of paying back his debts and showing his respect and devotion to the man.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extraordinary story, essentially a personalized account of the history of the Palestinians of Galilee since the Zionist immigrations -- certainly, after the genocide of the Jews in the 1940s, the cruelest assault on a people in the 20th century (though the Armenian genocide too is right up there if one is counting), and it continues today in all its horror. The story is hung on an initially irritating conceit, one man's monologue as he cares for a mentor who has suffered a stroke and is brain dead. The protagonist imagines that his charge can hear and comprehend him. But as the story progresses, the immediacy of the reality of the intertwining biographies and the awful -- and often beautiful -- story they tell is so engaging that the irritation passes. But what also makes this novel extraordinary is that it is told without rancor -- not that hatred wasn't swirling around and everpresent. The people are real, that world is real, the suffering and death are real. It is this, and the opening of a window on that world heretofore glimpsed only on the news, that is the beauty of this book. There were occasional and brief what seemed to me trite pop-philosophical digressions, but they did not seriously affect the power of the reading. Some episodes seem to be present to emphasize that the author is not anti-Jewish, but they feel contrived. In this feverish situation it is no doubt a good thing to emphasize an author's rejection of anti-Semitic prejudice, but one would hope the author could find a way that feels as real as the rest of the book. Well, truth to tell, there was one subplot that stretched credulity in the interest of creating an artful story. Nonetheless, this is a truly powerful book, and the reality of that world comes through despite the occasional novelistic artifice.Read more ›
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