A “hakawati” is a Middle Eastern storyteller. They are therefore liars. When a hakawati is in your family, he will tell you many lies about your history. That way, you will learn that sometimes stories make more sense than the truth, that lies are there to teach us what we can’t learn otherwise.
That’s a very basic thematic overview of the notions behind “The Hakawati,” a fantastic family epic spanning four generations and four religions–and that’s before the layers of “Arabian Nights” style stories, of which there are many. Stories are interwoven within stories in this novel.
The author also plays fantastically with time. I’ve seen this sort of narrative before, but he’s going from his narrator’s childhood to the present day to the distant past in the same chapter–and that’s before said layer of fantastical tales, which are present in every chapter.
Basically it’s an incredible feat of narrative, plot, and character to pull all this together, and I’m in awe. If you want to read anything about the complex nature of what we call “stories”–not about authors, not about writing, about stories–pick this book up. I know I’m certainly not putting it down anytime soon.