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The Hakawati

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,669 Ratings  ·  407 Reviews
In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. The city is a shell of the Beirut Osama remembers, but he and his friends and family take solace in the things that have always sustained them: gossip, laughter, and, above all, stories.

Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching stor
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Hardcover, 528 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Bond Street Books (first published 2008)
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Mary Your question is either a sweeping generalization or poorly constructed or you're a troll. Not all the reviews written by those living in the States…moreYour question is either a sweeping generalization or poorly constructed or you're a troll. Not all the reviews written by those living in the States reflect a difficulty reading and understanding the book. However, the three or four reviews noting difficulty transitioning among the various story lines and time periods were, indeed, written by those in the States. Most "Americans" can boast reading comprehension levels above the sixth grade, which could easily explain why the book was published in the U.S.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Peggy
Mar 28, 2008 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did you ever read a book so good that you had an actual physical reaction to something you read? Perhaps you were startled into a gasp of surprise when the killer was revealed. Maybe you shed a tear of joy when the good guys finally won, or your heart pounded when things weren't going so well. Or maybe, just maybe, if the story was good enough you dropped all of your barriers and immersed yourself in the world on the page, and suddenly this was no longer a book that you were reading but a story ...more
Jonfaith
You can say that Lebanese has hundreds of lexemes for family relations. Family to the Lebanese is as snow to the Inuit.

Most of us are familiar with the fabled conversion stories, on the night Mario Vargas Llosa earned his law degree he picked up Brothers Karamazov and was bewitched, 24 hours later, having read all night and the next day he completed the tome and discovered that he was destined to be a novelist. What about Marx reading Hegel for days on end? Samuel Delany relates how he left his
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Ghi
Jun 04, 2011 Ghi rated it it was amazing
I've said it before and I will say it again:

"...One thing I will admit however, is that this book suffers greatly from ADD. It is hard to get into it if you aren't a book lover. If the first sentence of "Listen. Allow me to be your God. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story" does not capture you, then you truly are a lost cause. In this book, you will feel joy, sorrow, fear, guilt, dread and regret in every page. You will laugh and cry at the same time. You will
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jordan
Jul 30, 2008 jordan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any one who loves a great story
Once in a very long while comes along a book so magical that one wishes it would never end. How perfect that Alameddine's The Hakawaiti is such a book? The title refers to the practice of a school of Middle Eastern story tellers who would entertain, often appearing nightly but drawing a story out over years, people coming back again and again to hear the next part of the tale. From the first line Alamaddine demonstrates himself to an heir to this great tradition, giving the reader a comfort that ...more
Tony
It's not you, Rabih, it's me. Or, rather, I just tried this at the wrong season. There's as always the wonderful storytelling and the interweaving storylines suggest a larger purpose. I might have cancelled the golf match, turned off the baseball game, let the weeds grow in the garden, and ordered take-out, if this had been limited to the modern-day narrator. But when Fatima goes exploring, gets her hand ripped off and, whoosh, re-attaches it, I was weary that there'd soon be dragons. You're sti ...more
Meagan
Jun 30, 2014 Meagan marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: fiction
This is going to be a very difficult review to write, because I don't want to influence anyone unfairly through my review, or scare anyone off from reading it. Because here's the thing: I gave up. I didn't finish. But I think it's a very good and worthy book! Don't judge it based on me!

Here's what happened:

A few years ago I read several really glowing reviews of this book, and when I checked out plot summaries it seemed like a strong contender for something I would like. It has a magical, almost
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Sanchia
Nov 23, 2008 Sanchia rated it really liked it
I loved this book and could not put it down, which made for a very tricky week as I have a six-month-old who also didn’t want to be put down. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done jiggling on the spot with baby in a papoose. I believe The Hakawati will top my list for the year’s most inventive, witty, adventurous and sexiest reads. It’s pure genius.
Hakawati is Arabic for storyteller, and the narrator of this tale is Osama al-Kharrat, a young Lebanese man who has returned to present day
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Chrissie
I listened to 4 hours of 20 hours and 53 minutes.....and then I gave up.

Why?

I was confused much of the time. I didn't always know who was speaking. I didn't know if I was listening to a "story"* or the present time thread about Osama al-Kharrat who was back in Lebanon because his father was dying. Or was this now a shift to Osama's youth? Also, I didn't know who was who. Aunts and uncles and cousins - I just couldn't keep them straight. The characters are not properly introduced. I was upset wh
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Melanie
One of the main themes of the book is identity and the search for a hybrid identity without a conflicted identity. The Hakawati alternates between a first-person account of his contemporary Lebanese family life and imaginative stories. Of these stories, one ongoing narrative is that of Baybars. It’s one of several Arabic oral epics, and his scenes from the epic of Baybars are great. They show the liveliness of the epic: fight scenes, love scenes, adventurous travels, double-crossing and disguise ...more
Coleccionista  de finales tristes
Se ama o se odia este libro

Yo lo odie la primera vez que lo intente leer y lo abandoné pero me seguía llamando y después regresé a él. Un libro sencillo y a la vez complicado, por su lectura enredada. Osama vive en EU y debe regresar a Líbano por la enfermedad de su padre, convive con muchos familiares y cada uno tiene una historia que contar, la voz pasa de uno a otro y hay historias dentro de cada historia.

Un libro para leerse con tiempo y en compañía de un buen chocolate.
Clare
Jan 06, 2015 Clare rated it it was amazing
One of my top five favorite books. The perfect balance of all the things I like: self-discovery/reflection for a somewhat petty main character, mix of mythology and current events, magical realism, a satisfying quest (many satisfying quests), a distinctly playful style of prose. Excellent tension between history and identity. I love this book. I've reread it at least twice and it holds up every time.
Zillah
May 31, 2010 Zillah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
It wasn't one of those books that l couldn't put down and read in one sitting. I suppose u wonder how come l rated it 5* and shelved it as one of my favorites? Because it is one of the most amazing books l've ever held in my hands. Every time l picked it up again l was instantly dragged into this magical Alameddine's world composed of a million stories; about heros, demons, ordinary people, jealousy, love, forgiveness, dreams, disappointment, lust, bravery, fear, loss- each of those concerning a ...more
Hermien
Jul 16, 2016 Hermien rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks, middle-east
The delightful story of Osama al-Kharrat colourful Lebanese family interspersed with Arabian tales. The family story flicks back and forth in time and there are stories within stories, but I didn't find it difficult to follow and it gave the book a beautiful richness.
Nick
Feb 15, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it
"The Hakawati" is an elegy for the Lebanon, multicultural and urbane, that was shattered by the civil war from 1975 through 1990, depicted largely through the story of one of the narrators' extended family. The title refers to a professional storyteller, which the family's grandfather was but is also a wink (of which there are many in this book), referring to the author, who twines three stories together in alternating fashion. There is the family, gathered at the hospital deathbed of the father ...more
Natacha Pavlov
This reading surprised me in two ways; on one level by its beautiful writing and then by my eventual waning interest.

The author is undeniably skilled, what with interweaving present-day narrative with Arabian Nights-like stories emanating the Hakawati style. There’s a plethora of references ranging from folk tales, the three monotheist faiths, and Greek mythology—complete with elements like mutilation, homosexuality, and incest—that reflect the author’s creativity. (Bonus points for the hilario
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Irena
Apr 29, 2016 Irena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Vrlo lako najbolja knjiga koju sam čitala u zadnjih par mjeseci.

Radnja teče kroz više isprepletenih priča; priča koje se rađaju jedna iz druge i čine neprekidan niz sve do kraja knjige, pa i dalje.

Priče o (važnosti i kompleksnosti) obiteljskim vezama, te srednjoistočnim klasičnim ljubavima i avanturama.

Ono što je meni najbitnije: jako lijepo, dobro pisanje. Pisac ne smara nijednom u svih 660 stranica knjige. Željela sam da mogu brže čitati, toliko sam htjela saznati what happens next.
Svaki put k
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Kelly Neal
Jul 09, 2011 Kelly Neal rated it really liked it
I liked the stories inside of stories and the never-ending quality of the stories. I assumed that the stories were going to be interrelated by the end, so I just trusted that assumption and plowed along even when i could not make a direct connection. I liked that the connections were not obvious, if there at all. I am not sure there were direct connections. It took me most of the novel to realize (i am slow) that the Hakawati was the son. Duh, he was telling the story, the only first person narr ...more
Ivan Perdomo
Apr 25, 2015 Ivan Perdomo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Es un cuento que trata sobre la familia Al-Jarrat y las tragedias y aventuras vividas por cada uno de sus mientras y la relación entre si como familia. Relata como Osama, un joven que vive en los Angeles de origen libanes debe volver a su tierra natal de nuevo, a consecuencia de los días finales de su padre, y como este revive su infancia y la de su familia mediante historias.
Es un libro irreverente que mediante, la utilización de cuentos verídicos y ficticios contados por los personajes que des
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Kathrina
I tripped up on my plan to only read horror/thrillers this month, but I was stuck at the auto shop without my current read, and I'd just picked this up for myself as a treat. This is a luxurious story, and I admit, I probably read through way too fast. There are always at least three story lines moving at once, and if you don't keep reading regularly you are likely to lose a thread. Alameddine creates wonderfully retold stories of old -- biblical, Islamic, Judaic, a wonderful tapestry of history ...more
Leota
Sep 27, 2008 Leota rated it liked it
When I was in high school, every summer I’d go to Indiana for a week and let me tell you: they have some schizophrenic weather! Rain. Then sun. Then clouds. Then sun. Then rain. (Make up your mind, sky!)

So consequently, I hated the weather in Indiana, then loved it, then was indifferent to it, then hated and loved again.

That pretty much sums up my experience reading The Hakawati as well.

This novel (?) is made up of stories upon stories upon stories, and everyone is a storyteller – even charact
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Maya
Oct 20, 2009 Maya rated it really liked it
Really, really creative and interesting book, a pleasure to read. I was sorry to finish it. I think I subconsciously slowed down at the end because I wanted it to last longer!
Maryam
Jun 03, 2016 Maryam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Can you hear me?" I closed my eyes briefly. "I know your stories."
His chest kept rising and falling mechanically, systematically.
"And I can tell you my stories. If you want."
I paused, waited.
"Listen."


I picked this book up randomly last year at Half Price Books because the binding stood out to me. Otherwise I would have never known this gem existed. So fortunate to have picked it up and finally get through all of it.

However, it took me so long to get through! Nine months! Though, to be fair, I d
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Nino Frewat
Jul 10, 2012 Nino Frewat rated it did not like it
Shelves: american-fiction
I did not like this book; I hated it. Had this book not been selected by the boo club's members, I probably wouldn't have finished it; I probably wouldn't have crossed the 200th page; the following 300 pages add nothing new to the story.
It sapped the joy of reading out of me. I could not find anything original or smart in this book; I am Lebanese, and I can understand that readers of other nationalities, who never checked a Lebanese blog before, might find what is written informative. But to me
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Ron
Apr 29, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
This book is two historical novels, a family saga, and more than a couple short story collections rolled into one and told all at the same time. And it's a lot of fun. Alameddine centers it all around the gathering of an extended Lebanese family at the bedside of the narrator's father. Jumping from one narrative thread to another, one of them a long magical story within yet another one, about legendary kings, heroic slaves, and characters with super powers, reminiscent of "1001 Nights," the book ...more
Jackie
Oct 06, 2011 Jackie rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that I accidentally stole from another person. When buying my text books for the school year, I have a nasty habit of wandering through the literature class aisles and snapping up things that catch my eye--so, my deepest apologies to the last Middle Eastern lit student to make it to the bookstore, I hope this one was assigned somewhere late in the semester so you had time to order it on Amazon.

First, I love books about storytelling. Second, I love stories about places
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Emi Bevacqua
Apr 20, 2012 Emi Bevacqua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mideast
Wow this book was exhausting to follow, even after having just finished another Rabih Alameddine book immediately prior to picking up this one, and even though some of the story line seemed to overlap: a Lebanese family separated by feuds, geography, war, and stubbornness.

In The Hakawati, the present-day-ish story of reunification at the hospital for a dying loved one is interwoven with fantastical Arabian Nights type stories (Hakawati translates as storyteller) throughout the ages and spanning
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Kathyladner
Nov 08, 2010 Kathyladner rated it it was amazing
Excellent story that interweaves the stories of the bible, modern and ancient storytellers, the Koran etc. The author makes a statement about religion through his telling of the story (all religion is based on storytelling...religion is not factual...all religions are related...their stories intertwine). The stories that the author tells are fascinating. A tale of a modern lebanese storytelling family before, during and after war intermixed with the telling of ancient stories. Loved this book fo ...more
Alison Looney
Jan 01, 2012 Alison Looney rated it really liked it
One character in the novel, a storyteller by trade, compares stories to "eels in a wooden crate. They slither over and under each other, but never leave the tub." This pretty well describes the novel as a whole, which is constructed of long and short stories that wind and weave over 500+ pages. Some stories are epic, spanning many years and miles and generations, ending up far from where they began. Some are short and have clear morals. Some involve magic and fantasy, some are grounded in realis ...more
William
Mar 15, 2012 William rated it really liked it
This is really 2 books in one which are very much intertwined. One the story of an extended Lebanese Druze family. Extended in both its current size and many generations. And the other the rich mythology and folk tales of the Arab world. These are not your Disneyfied Ali Baba or Prince of Persia tales but the unvarnished "Hakawati" tales. Hakawati meaning story teller. The Hakawati being as important to family and social life as any other prestigious occupation. THe blending of cultural mytholog ...more
Adam
Feb 15, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it
This one's tough for me to review. The first half I read aloud to my girlfriend; the second half I read to myself. While reading it aloud, I was frustrated with the non-linear nature of the story as well as with the prose itself. I guess it just didn't lend itself to being read aloud.

But when I was reading it to myself in peace and quiet, I found the novel strangely irresistible. The stories are unique and interesting, even occasionally funny, and present a pretty compelling view of another cult
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Rabih Alameddine (Arabic: ربيع علم الدين) was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese parents, and grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon. He was educated in England and America, and has an engineering degree from UCLA and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. ...more
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“...What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.” 135 likes
“By nature, a storyteller is a plagiarist. Everything one comes across--each incident, book, novel, life episode, story, person, news clip--is a coffee bean that will be crushed, ground up, mixed with a touch of cardamom, sometimes a tiny pinch of salt, boiled thrice with sugar, and served as a piping-hot tale.” 17 likes
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