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Passage to Dusk

[ Middle Eastern Studies ]

Passage to Dusk

By Rashid al-Daif

Translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi

Introduction by Anton Shammas

This novel deals with the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s in a postmodern, poetic style.

2001

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Paperback

5.5 x 8.5 | 108 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70507-4

Passage to Dusk deals with the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s in a postmodern, poetic style. The narrative focuses on the deranged, destabilized, confused, and hyper-perceptive state of mind created by living on the scene through a lengthy war. The story is filled with details that transcend the willed narcissism of the main character, while giving clues to the culture of the time. It is excellent fiction, written in a surrealistic mode, but faithful to the characters of the people of Lebanon, their behavior during the war, and their contradictions. Issues of gender and identity are acutely portrayed against Lebanon's shifting national landscape.

The English-language reader has not been much exposed to Lebanese literature in translation, and Rashid al-Daif is one of Lebanon's leading writers. He has been translated into eight languages, including French, German, Italian, Polish, and Spanish. Translator Nirvana Tanoukhi manages to preserve Daif's unusual, moving, and at times humorous style in her English rendition.

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When he knocked on the door the first time, I was aware that he was late. I had already started wondering why he had delayed. What was his motive?

Then he knocked a second time before I could even cross the distance between me and the door.

He knocked a third, a fourth time, again, a fifth time; then the knocking grew so insistent that I decided it must be someone else.

But who can this someone be and what does he want?

... I imagined the worst.

Could it be that someone had been watching the entrance and saw me coming in? How else could the person knocking have known that I'd come home after so long. When no one saw me come in except the super, and when I hardly said hello to him in order not to be kept talking outside the building. I even interrupted him when he started asking me about my health and so on. I asked him to come up and see me in about an hour, after I'd rested, and he answered with his usual politeness, "Sure. In an hour. At your service."

That was an hour and fifteen minutes ago and he still hasn't shown up. Has he sent someone in his place?

And this knocking, it must be someone who's been tipped off about me, or someone who would rather I hadn't come back, who's come to make threats, or to kill.

And in either case, I have to answer the door.

In any case, I have to answer.

So I rushed to the door.

My chest was bare. I didn't put on a shirt or anything, even though my right arm was cut off at the shoulder.

I rushed to the door. To hell with indecisiveness.

I rushed to the door and opened it with my left hand. I took one step out. "Yes?" I called. And the rest I don't remember.

I was murdered on the spot. They must have killed me because I scared them. They were afraid of me, so they killed me. The super was one of them and he was the only one without a beard; the others had beards—trimmed, short, black, and full. They were all tall except for the super; and they all shot at me, including the super. But how can that be when the super was unarmed? It's a serious flaw in my testimony. I admit.

But I did see him with my own two eyes.

I saw him without a gun, shooting at me. His bullets pierced me just like the other bullets.

I can still see it. The flame coming out of his AK47. I can see it with my own two eyes. Why would I want to lie now that I'm dead?

He, on the other hand, has denied ever coming up to my apartment with anyone.

Author of some ten novels in Arabic, al-Daif lives in Beirut. Translator Tanoukhi, a graduate student in comparative literature at the University of Texas at Austin, has a master's degree in literary translation from the University of Arkansas. Anton Shammas, a distinguished author, critic, and professor at the University of Michigan, has written the introduction to the novel.

"This novel would be on my list of the ten Arabic novels published within the last two decades or so that any student of modern Arabic literature should be familiar with."
—Anton Shammas

Translation Award Second Round
American Literary Translators Association

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