Let’s just do words, no pictures today. 😊
The new book I began is incredibly good, by the author Ameen Rihani I’d discovered listed as one of the very few of May Ziadeh’s literary colleagues (or of people she knew in general) who had helped get her out of the horrific mental asylum in Lebanon where her relatives had thrown her and took her wealth and estate at the time of her deepest grief and depression.
This man, Ameen Rihani wrote the novel I began reading yesterday The Book of Khalid (1911) published in New York, the same year May’s first French book of poetry Dream Flowers was published in Egypt. I am reading a free copy on Kindle of Ameen Rihani’s not so well known novel.
The first thing I noticed when I started it was the writing’s great complexity with free, unhindered thoughts and insightful yet down to earth questioning, swiftness of lines and passages, skillful variation of sentence structure (for no boredom,) and with an overall masterful command of the English language (and language in general.)
I learned that the novel was written in English originally which was something I’d checked right away as I felt it read too personably and flowing to be a translation at the time. I also read that Lebanese-born, Ameen had learned English at 11 yrs old in New York and was serious in his own study and practice, intending to move beyond just acceptable English literacy for himself and also simultaneously writing and publishing in his native language, Arabic. The Book of Khalid was the first novel written in English by an Arab-Lebanese author.
The novel begins with the two young men, Shakib and Khalid who are emigrating to the United States from Lebanon and pass through the Marseille Port on a ship to Ellis Island where they arrive in New York City, the narration told with the clarity of looking at a distance from the characters and still seeing inward, and even places in a poem as being written by a main character in the book.
I surprised myself laughing often with this as I was not even particularly in a distinctly laughing mood at the time either! And I have more to read in it.
While I am reading Ameen Rihani’s text version free on Kindle, the book was also illustrated in print by Kahlil Gibran, who was a younger colleague of Ameen’s— I would like to read the illustrated version afterwards. This novel was said to have inspired Kahlil Gibran to write his book, The Prophet published in English in 1923. (Sorry, The Prophet did not win Pulitzer; I just re-checked that fact in original post.)
As I looked for a copy of the novel The Book of Khalid by Ameen Rihani, I saw there was another book by the man published after his death by another publisher, My Life with May and the summary reads ‘a confession and apology’… I am passing up on that like I had Gibran’s letters, like I saw Gibran’s nickname he’d given her, skim some lines and think No Gi, Just No, enough of your Mirium nonsense…and I finished. I read the literature, all literature, by those known or unknown, as art. And I love May so very well, and thoroughly.📚🥰📖😊
I remembered my own immigrant imaginative line that came to mind recently when I found The Book of Khalid but thought of before I’d known of the book yet, in which I was thinking, ”Well my ancestor was standing at the edge of the Italian shore looking over beyond the Mediterranean sea, with one penny in his pocket…and a dream. And when he got to Ellis Island, he had to be shook up and searched for diseases, test his knowledge, throw any version of his last name on as if, however you spell it’s pretty much still trash doesn’t matter, get to the “New World,” work hard…and be seen as stupid, illiterate, low class, and dirty, and as making up an inauthentic, dumbed down version of the original Italian language from the finer country.
I found two books yesterday, but I didn’t open them up, just put them on the highest shelf for my ‘books not yet read’, and so I don’t feel bad for not telling you more than this about them. And in the bedroom by the great bookshelf some small decorative additions will be in progress to appear. 😊🌅