Thursday, April 7, 2011

Have you found the book?

I’ve been searching for the book for the past six years. I’ve been buying every book I stumble upon in an attempt to find “it”.

The book I’m looking for will be the book I memorize and quote by heart. I know what the characters are thinking and they become part of my life. What would Martha do? I asked myself after finishing Martha Quest by Doris Lessing.

It was a touching book, I loved it, scribbled notes and placed bookmarks inside it. I thought I found “it” after reading the last page of Martha Quest, but I was proven wrong.
I even changed my email password to Tehmina Durrani’s book " my feudal lord" after finishing it. I loved Durrani’s masterpiece. I re-read some passages and was heartbroken by the main character’s dilemma. She was abused and degraded by her husband. It was the first time I read about domestic violence and the book stayed with me just like her bruises stayed with her and marked her arms and beautiful face.

I loved Jamal Mahgoub’s traveling with djinns. I even dropped everything to go see him at Cairo’s international book fair. I attended his lecture, paid an obscene amount of money for his new book in hardcover and asked him to sign a tattered copy of traveling with djinns. I proudly presented to him a worn out copy of his book. Some pages were folded and some were almost pink due to excessive use of pink highlighter.

Was it the book?

It was a special book to me, but I wouldn’t call it “the book”. I remember how much I struggled to get this book. I actually placed a special order at a bookstore and paid a significant amount of money. I think I spent most of my money on books when I used to live abroad. Sudan doesn’t have many bookstores and I spend my money on food instead of books, but in another life, I didn’t mind spending half of my allowance on books.

I found “the book” at a book fair for less than 2 dollars. It was a dusty second-hand copy and I almost didn’t get it. It was called Leaving Beirut and written by Mai Ghassoub.
“Who is she again?”, I asked myself.

The title wasn’t very interesting and the cover was green (my least favorite color). The owner of the booth told me that I would get a discount if I buy 10 books. I ended up buying it just to get the discount.
I started reading the book on a cold winter night at about 2 p.m. I was in a good mood and I wanted to read something different. I ended up reading it simply because it was obviously about Lebanon, a country I know little about. I devoured the book in a few days and ended up reading and re-reading different passages. I read it like a loved book. I wrote notes in the margins, dog eared a number of pages and underlined names of people to Google (do not judge me) and read some passages aloud to my sister.

It was the kind of book I have been meaning to write. It would be called leaving Sudan, but I would convey the same emotions…. idolizing Sudan, ranting about injustice, making sense of war and ethnicity and recalling certain encounters.
Once you find your book, there is no harm in continuing to search for another special book.

I continue searching for other books to love and get absorbed in.


Ashraf said...

Coincidentally, I was watching an old interview with Mai Ghoussob the other day. The woman is a beacon to literature in the region, wrote a compelling novel, and founded one of the Arab World most prominent publishers (Al Saqi). Thank you kizzie for the heartfelt review.

Nana Yaa said...

Mai Ghoussoub, gone but not forgotten. We miss you, your grace and your burning intellect.