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The Tiller of Waters

This spellbinding novel narrates the many-layered recollections of a hallucinating man in devastated Beirut. The desolate, almost surreal, urban landscape is enriched by the unfolding of the family sagas of Niqula Mitri and his beloved Shamsa, the Kurdish maid. Mitri reminisces about his Egyptian mother and his father who came back to settle in Beirut after a long stay in Egypt. Both Mitri and his father are textile merchants and see the world through the code of cloth, from the intimacy of linen, velvet, and silk to the most impersonal of synthetics. Shamsa in turn relates her story, the myriad adventures of her parents and grandparents who moved from Iraqi Kurdistan to Beirut. Haunting scenes of pastoral Kurds are juxtaposed against the sedentary decadence of metropolitan residents. Barakat weaves into her sophisticated narrative shreds of scientific discourse about herbal plants and textile crafts; customs and manners of Arabs, Armenians, and Kurds; mythological figures from ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Arabia; the theosophy of the African Dogons and the medieval Byzantines; and historical accounts of the Crusades in the Holy Land and the silk route to China.
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About the Author

Born in Beirut, Hoda Barakat earned her B.A. in French language and literature from Beirut University in 1975. She now lives in Paris. The Tiller of Waters was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2002. Marilyn Booth is the translator of The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat (AUC Press, 2000) and Leaves of Narcissus by Somaya Ramadan (AUC Press, 2002).


"A powerful story of humanity, of what should be, or should have been, protected. Barakat... weaves and intertwines, page after page, reality with history, past and present." - al Fadid"

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