by Ben Stroud
Rabih Alameddine’s latest novel, The Hakawati, is itself about the power of a good story—its ability to engage us and, when collected with other stories, make us who we are. The narrative takes readers from a hospital in present-day Beirut to a Lebanese village in the years before World War I, to the mythic medieval past of the Middle East. Some stories simply begin of their own accord, and others grow from tales already being told. For instance, the story of the hero Baybars, which stretches across the novel, is told within another story by an emir who hopes, through the telling, to ensure his child will be a boy–further testament to the power of (and power of believing in) stories.