Magazine article World Literature Today

Moving the Palace

Magazine article World Literature Today

Moving the Palace

Article excerpt

Charif Majdalani. Moving the Palace. Trans. Edward Gauvin. New York. New Vessel Press. 2017. 200 pages.

Moving the Palace won both the François Mauriac Prize from the Académie Française and the Prix Tropiques, so one opens its pages with high expectations. It says something that a perusal of the novel's opening paragraph assures the reader these expectations will not be disappointed. Moving the Palace's title refers to the return of a certain expatriate Lebanese, Samuel Ayyad, from Sudan to his home country.

Early in the last century, Ayyad, "Westernized, Anglophone, and Protestant to boot," heads to Sudan to make his fortune, arriving there at a significant moment in that country's history: Anglo-Egyptian armies have restored Sudan to its more powerful northern neighbor, itself still, of course, very much under British sway, after the revolt of the Mahdi, but imperial control has not yet been fully established; there is room for individual initiative and adventure. Ayyad acquires the palace of the title and decides to break it down into its constituent elements and take it home on the backs of a fleet of camels. Triumphs and mishaps ensue, but the final pages narrate Ayyad's arrival near Beirut and his meeting the young woman he will marry. …

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