Cover image for The Parisian, or, al-Barisi : a novel / Isabella Hammad.
Title:
The Parisian, or, al-Barisi : a novel / Isabella Hammad.
Title Variants:
Al-Barisi
ISBN:
9780802129437
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, 2019.
Physical Description:
ix, 566 pages : maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Maps on lining papers
Abstract:
A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.

Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from Nablus, a town in Ottoman Palestine. A dreamer, a romantic, an aesthete, in 1914 he leaves to study medicine in France, and falls in love. When Midhat returns to Nablus to find it under British rule, and the entire region erupting with nationalist fervor, he must find a way to cope with his conflicting loyalties and the expectations of his community. The story of Midhat's life develops alongside the idea of a nation, as he and those close to him confront what it means to strive for independence in a world that seems on the verge of falling apart.
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Summary

Summary

A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.

Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from Nablus, a town in Ottoman Palestine. A dreamer, a romantic, an aesthete, in 1914 he leaves to study medicine in France, and falls in love. When Midhat returns to Nablus to find it under British rule, and the entire region erupting with nationalist fervor, he must find a way to cope with his conflicting loyalties and the expectations of his community. The story of Midhat's life develops alongside the idea of a nation, as he and those close to him confront what it means to strive for independence in a world that seems on the verge of falling apart.

Against a landscape of political change that continues to define the Middle East, The Parisian explores questions of power and identity, enduring love, and the uncanny ability of the past to disrupt the present. Lush and immersive, and devastating in its power, The Parisian is an elegant, richly-imagined debut from a dazzling new voice in fiction.


Author Notes

ISABELLA HAMMAD was born in London. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction for her story "Mr. Can'aan." Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review . The Parisian is her first novel.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her exceptional debut, Hammad taps into the satisfying slow-burn style of classic literature with a storyline that captures both the heart and the mind. In 1914, 19-year-old Midhat Kamal leaves his hometown of Nablus in Palestine and heads to Marseilles to study medicine, where he stays with university professor Dr. Frederic Molineu and his daughter, Jeannette. Jeannette has just completed her own schooling in philosophy, and though her interactions with Midhat are initially based on distant friendliness, romantic notions begin to stir inside them both. Midhat nevertheless relocates to Paris after one year, changes his academic major to history, and evolves into an image like "the figure of the Parisian Oriental as he appeared on certain cigarette packets in corner stores." After he returns home to Nablus, Midhat's life is directed by his wealthy father, who plans for his eldest son to marry a local woman and work in the family business. Midhat remains separated from Jeannette, his first love, as national and geopolitical machinations continue to grind, and by 1936, Midhat has witnessed a number of historical regional changes, including British rule and the Arab fight for independence. Richly textured prose drives the novel's spellbinding themes of the ebb and flow of cultural connections and people who struggle with love, familial responsibilities, and personal identity. This is an immensely rewarding novel that readers will sink into and savor. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

DEBUT At the outbreak of World War I, Midhat Kamal, the privileged son of a textile merchant from Nablus, Palestine, is sent to Montpelier, France, to study medicine and avoid conscription. On arrival, he is warmly welcomed into the household of his mentor, Frederic Molineu. Midhat develops a keen interest in his studies and an even keener one in the doctor's daughter, Jeanette. But their love affair is cut short when Midhat discovers he's been the subject of Dr. Molineu's research. Hastily -abandoning medicine and Jeanette, he departs for Paris, where he completes his degree at the Sorbonne, pals around with a group of like-minded Arabs, and affects the stylish air of a flaneur. At war's end, he feels compelled to return to Nablus, where his father expects him to join the business. Any hope Midhat harbors of a reunion with Jeanette is thwarted by his father's demand that he consent to an arranged marriage. VERDICT Against a backdrop of Arab nationalism and unrest caused by shifting political control of the region and waves of Jewish immigration, this finely plotted, big-hearted novel explores the origin of Mideast tensions that continue to this day. A compelling first novel. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/18.]-Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

There was one other Arab onboard the ship to Marseille. His name was Faruq al-Azma, and the day after leaving port in Alexandria he approached Midhat at breakfast, with a plate of toast in one hand and a string of amber prayer beads in the other. He sat, tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, and started to describe without any introduction how he was returning from Damascus to resume his teaching post in the language department of the Sorbonne. He had left Paris at the outbreak of war but after the Miracle of the Marne was deter-mined to return. He had grey eyes and a slightly rectangular head. "Al-Baris." He sighed. "It is where my life is." To young Midhat Kamal, this statement was highly suggestive. In his mind a gallery of lamps directly illuminated a dance hall full of women. He looked closely at Faruq's clothes. He wore a pale blue three-piece suit, and an indigo tie with a silver tiepin in the shape of a bird. A cane of some dark unpainted wood leaned against the table. "I am going to study medicine," he said. "At the University of Montpellier." "Bravo," said Faruq. Midhat smiled as he reached for the coffeepot. Muscles he had not known were tense began to relax. "This is your first visit to France," said Faruq. Midhat said nothing, assenting. Excerpted from The Parisian by Isabella Hammad All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.