Everyone has narratives that rule their lives. Some people’s narratives center around their parents, or their own work in this world, or their husband or wife’s life. These narratives are the stories we tell ourselves in order to live with our selves.
Every family has their own stories. Origin stories, memories passed down and down the generations. None of us can really know each other, and so we try to know each other’s stories instead.
Are the stories true? No, of course not. They are stories, and thus they are both lies and truer than truth.
That’s what the novel “The Hakawati” is about in the end. It’s about the vast intertwining stories of families. About the stories they can tell themselves and one another. The damage they can do to each other and the feats they can accomplish together.
There are three intertwining stories in this novel: two myths and an epic of a Lebanese family. The stories switch at strange times, and none of them are about what they seem to be about. And they are all things of beauty. They all broke my heart and made it soar.
If a place is its people and its stories, than “The Hakawati” is a fantastic production of Lebanon.
What the novel never loses sight of are three essential truths of life: All families are stories, all people are stories in the end, and all lives have an inevitable ending. If only every novelist could hang on to just one of those truths, there would be a lot more good books around.