Translator Kareem James Abu-Zeid must have been pleased to see this name on the IPAF—or Arabic Booker—shortlist, for his novel America. He recently said of the prolific Lebanese author:
“The single Arab author I believe to be the most in need of translation is the Lebanese novelist Rabee Jaber, born in 1972. He has published a host of novels in Arabic, several of which have been translated into French, yet none of which have been translated into English. He captures the life and spirit of the city of Beirut in unforgettable ways.”
Jaber was born in 1972 in Beirut and studied physics at the American University of Beirut. He is presently editor of Afaaq (Horizons), the weekly cultural supplement of Al-Hayat daily newspaper. According to the Hay Festival organizers, he has published a blinding 16 novels since 1992.
His novels have been translated into German and French, but never English–although an excerpt of Youssef the Englishman appeared in Banipal.
The blogger “Sleepless in Cairo” gushingly reviews Jaber’s Confessions.
What is America about?
“America evokes the story of the Syrians who left their homeland in the early twentieth century to try their luck in the young America. Spurred on by a sense of adventure and the desire to escape poverty, they made the epic journey. Leaving their homeland with only a few belongings, their journey takes in everything from their travels across mountains and plains, to their gradual integration into American society, later becoming citizens of America and fighting its wars. In particular, the novel focuses on the character of Marta, who travels alone to New York in search of her husband, with whom she has lost contact. America is a tribute to those who left Syria in search of a new life from those who remained behind.”