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Gate of the Sun: Bab Al-Shams

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,008 ratings  ·  294 reviews
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

One of Kansas City Star's 100 Noteworthy Books of the Year

A Boldtype Notable Book of the Year

A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

Drawing on the stories he gathered from refugee camps over the course of many years, Elias Khoury's epic novel Gate of the Sun has be
Paperback, 531 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Picador USA (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written novel, in which Khoury draws inspiration from stories he heard from Palestinians in refugee camps. The stories are told from the perspective of Khalil, who is a close friend, almost a son, to Yunes, a Palestinian freedom fighter who is in a coma, a result of a massive stroke. Although others have given Yunes up for dead, Khalil sits vigil by his hospital bedside and recounts stories, in an effort to make sense of their lives, and to make some contact with Yunes.

Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: MENA
How to begin this review has been my quandry and has held me back til now. This book is not an easy read for many reasons. The story twists and turns, moving back and forth through the years between 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous dislodging, destruction of Palestinian lives, and the late 1980s in displaced Palestinian camps in Lebanon. It has been called a Palestinian Odyssey.

To say it is not an easy read is not to say I didn't like this book or appreciate
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The issue is war, and war has no beginning".

"I'm scared of history that has only one version. History has dozens of versions, and for it to ossify into one only leads to death"

On many occasions Gate of The Sun reminded me of a religious text (The Bible or Quran). It has the weight, rhythm and repetitions of a solemn text with its invoking of the antecedents; the litany of place-names and its epic descriptions of Palestinian history ( although, paradoxically, it is not an epic in its conception,
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, palestine
There is a point where Elias Khoury speaks through his character Khalil about the difficulties of writing. Khalil says to the comatose Yunis that words “come apart” when you write them down, and revert to symbols, cold and lifeless. I encounter this all the time when I write, and more so recently it seems. Language is an imperfect form of communication, and at some level everything is symbolic, no matter how definitive or specific we attempt to make our speech. Receiving or interpreting symbols ...more
Miriam Cihodariu
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lebanon, palestina
I understand why this book has been called the first Palestinian epic, and the enormous task which the author took upon himself.

It is full of stories and oral lore gathered from Palestinian refugee camps, and all of this is doubled by a conscious emphasis on storytelling as a means for survival. In this respect, of consciously owning it, Gate of the Sun is a postmodern epic of a people, but an epic nonetheless.

Towards the end, the narrator says that we have to tell stories in order to patch eve
David M
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: palestine
The great Palestinian novel? From the Nakba to Oslo, an Odyssey with no homecoming.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating piece of work, with more attention to the style and philosophy than to the substance or politics. While it was a pleasure to read in parts, it was a chore getting through some long rambling sections in between. It is a large book and if it were half its size, it could have been perfect. Overall, I could appreciate the unique way of storytelling but I can see why it would not suit everyone’s tastes.

Gate of the Sun is told from a first person perspective. Khalil is not a real
Geoffrey Fox
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Umm Hassan is dead."
These are Dr. Khaleel Ayyoub's first words to his only patient, the legendary hero of a dozen failed wars for Palestinian liberation, in Galilee Hospital in Shatila. But this isn't a real hospital (scarcely any supplies or professional staff), Khaleel is not a real doctor (though he had some rudimentary medical training in China), and Yunis, or Abu Salim, is not a real hero (though famous as "lone wolf" fighter) — and is now probably brain dead. But Umm Hassan, "Mother of Ha
Dec 23, 2012 marked it as not-finished-ragequit  ·  review of another edition
I could not finish it. It was not able to hold my attention, nor to excite me. In addition to that I think that the translation is awful. I was never sure who was saying what and whose thoughts I was reading. No idea what was going on.
Natylie Baldwin
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
What Elias Khoury was trying to accomplish with this novel was a noble undertaking: to convey the experience of the Palestinians since The Nakba of 1948 (the violent expulsion and displacement of the Palestinians from their land and villages to create the future state of Israel; literal translation = the catastrophe).

There were parts of this book that were moving and parts that were thought-provoking. There were even pages I dog-eared because they contained such insightful passages. However, by
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book made me think, made me angry, and made me sad--all of which were good things. This is a story about displaced Palestinians during the formation of the Jewish state, but the story isn't historical or political; it's a story about the individual person who didn't really care about the consequences of the Holocaust and the inability of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian to coexist on the same plot of land. A compeling story of the atrocities committed in the name of religion and nationalism an ...more
Finally, I finished Gate to the Sun. It was a new experience. I gave it 3/5 stars
Eye of Sauron
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Being a newcomer to Earthian cultures, I had previously been unfamiliar with any kind of Middle-Eastern culture. This dense novel, set in Beirut, Palestine, and Lebanon, quickly changed that.

Calling it a "novel" (despite its claim on the front cover) actually feels like a misleading appellation. Rather than proceeding in a traditional chronological, story-and-character-driven manner, it destroys modern conventions by making the nation of Palestine the real main character. The plot unfolds in a c
Ewa Gajer
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-lit, 2019, mena-2019
A Palestinian epic with elaborate structure, the book reminds me of Joyce, Marquez and Scheherazade. Khoury's use of discontinuous narrative is both fascinating and exasperating and takes a while to get used to. The novel is tedious at times, but it is often a page-turner as well. It is a love story, a complex political drama, and above all, a study of human nature. ...more
Thomas Guidotti
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book speaks a lot about some key ideas relevant to all of our lives - our relationship with the past, the idea of a homeland, literature as a window into reality, and what it means to be in love. The book is naturally pretty grim as the main topic here is Palestine but it still manages to give off a sort of joy of being.
Sam (Hissing Potatoes)
The writing is beautiful and I really like the themes, but I just don't have it in me to read 530 pages of what is almost stream of consciousness. ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gate of the Sun,
by Elias Khoury
Published by Picador (2007)
Rating: *****


This book has been on my to-read shelf since 2016, and I was intimidated about picking it up because I feared that I would not like it. When I first heard about this book, I heard only good things – from the plot, to the characters, to Khoury’s writing – people praised the decisions he made throughout. I was told it was impossible for me to not enjoy it, and that I would leave the book with several questions.

Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
'Gate of the Sun' is the accomplished product of a true artist's design: to give the Palestinian people an epic based on their history since the Nakba in 1948.
It is indeed an epic where prose and poetry intertwine in order to render both diversity and density to this complicated history too often simplified, downplayed and dehumanised.
Khoury aims at depicting this history through a variety of layers embodied by a diversity of characters, among whom Yunis, Khaleel, Naheeleh and Shams. Each ch
Steve Cran
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that comes highly recommended and worth every word of praise lavished upon. A must read if you are interested in Palestinian history and I challenge any of my Jewish friends to read it, believe me you an handle it. Story is about Younes an elderly Palestinian resistance fighter who falls into a coma. He is watched over by KHalil. Khalil speaks to the man while he is comatose in the hope that he will rise from his coma. Their stories weave and intertwine throughout the book maki ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is what it's like to read a pretentious book that actually lives upto what it tells you it's going to do.

It's not like 50 million other times when I pick up some novel that I've been repeatedly told is really deep and clever and I feel like I just read 400 pages of nothing.

This book tells the stories of multiple Palestinians over generations but it tells you a lot more than what being Palestinian was like and how being a refugee sucks. It can be really moving at times but it's not just sent
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Palestine, refugee studies
This book is extremely commendable in its articulation of a Palestinian history, experience and identity. I guess what I most liked about it was that the author isn't blatantly political, ofcourse there are obvious political undertones b/c it deals with the issue of Palestine, but the author deals with it in a very subtle way.

The story revolves around Khalid and Yunes. Yunes is Khalid's "father-figure" and is in a coma in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Khalid is a doctor who is working in that same
Shelley Alongi
May 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Long and boring and I’m not sure I got the point except that maybe him telling the story of his life and his friends live one that was dying and every other life he had come across was a cathartic experience. I know one thing there were sure a lot of tears in this book and I can’t blame them for that. I guess it’s all about war and deception and why people fight and why they don’t and lives that go on because of someone else and a little bit of everything. But the style that this book was writte ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bob by: Christopher
A somewhat difficult read, both in its format and its content - but nonetheless, an intensely compelling and intimate portrait of the trials and tears of Palestine in the years after 1948 to the early 2000s. Although like most students of history I knew the basic outlines of the story, Khoury's telling is from the perspective of a young Palestinian freedom fighter recounting his life, and the lives of his family and friends and lovers, as he sits by the bed of his comatose mentor, searching for ...more
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, multi-layered book...Khoury's great achievement is that he has somehow been able to communicate the subjective reality of the political situation without leaving the reader with a feeling that one side or the other is to be condemned for deception. The narrator will tell one story, and then soon retell it with crucial details changed, and then a third character will retell the story with even more shifting, and yet you understand that it's not that the first telling was "false" or a lie ...more
Michael Taouk
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We hear a great deal about events in Palestine since 1948. The Palestinian people themselves are usually presented through a superficial stereotype of victimisation and futile violence. Elias Khoury addresses this problem. "Gate of the Sun" is a brilliant biography of a people from a personal and human perspective, narrated in minute detail with a warm honesty. We are drawn into the personal lives of a Palestinian family. We get a glimpse of their rich heritage, centred on family and integrity - ...more
May 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: loving internationalists, citizens of the world.
Recommended to John by: saw it in a bookstore
The Palestinian diaspora, rendered with the humanity of a naturalborn artist and the swirl of a savvy urban postmodernist. Khoury's is an epic of scraping by, set in one cave or cubbyhole after another, on the fringes of the Euro-American technocracy that has been wrought out of the former orchards and sheep-ranches of what's now Israel. Yet, impressively, this tragic picaresque about love and displacement saves its harshest criticism for the Muslim mistreatment of the women -- the figures who c ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
As the bombardment of Gaza intensifies, it made the reading of this book all the more difficult. Khalil, the main character states, "I'm trying to rouse you with my stories because I'm certain that the soul can, if it wants, wake a sleeping body." Perhaps the stories of Palestine can awaken a sleeping world. Unfortunately, the style of the telling of these stories in "Gate of the Sun" made for a very tedious read. ...more
Dec 11, 2008 rated it liked it
There is always something that we don't know...only there, behind that gate, we can reveal the covered stories about not only the village of “Bab alshams” but also reveal your story, and my story. You know! Sometimes we need to disclose other stories to understand ourselves. ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't complete it...Maybe one day I'll take another shot at it... ...more
Cornelia Baciu
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it
sad book. written well and wonderful translated however cannot keep me connected for long
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صالون الجمعة: باب الشمس | 8-2014 18 163 Aug 13, 2014 06:05AM  
Middle East/North...: Gate of the Sun (September-October) 45 38 Nov 30, 2012 09:35AM  
Middle East/North...: Win free copies of Elias Khoury's books on Goodreads! 1 27 Mar 26, 2012 08:03AM  
Loosed in Transla...: Giving Away Elias Khoury this week! 1 9 Mar 26, 2012 07:57AM  
Gate of the Sun 1 34 Feb 17, 2008 08:30AM  

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Elias Khoury (Arabic: إلياس خوري) is a Lebanese novelist, playwright and critic. He has published ten novels, which have been translated into several foreign languages, as well as several works of literary criticism. He has also written three plays.
He currently serves as editor of Al-Mulhaq, the weekly cultural supplement of the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Nahar, and is a prominent public intelle

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