As Though She Were Sleeping
Elias Khoury (translated by Humphrey Davies)
MacLehose Press, May 2011
This post was written by M. Lynx Qualey.
Translator Humphrey Davies has called Elias Khoury’s 2007 novel, As Though She Were Sleeping, “one of the least linear books ever put down on paper.” The comment seems to signal both Davies’ frustration with the book, recently released in English translation by Maclehose Press, and his admiration for it.
Sleeping is Davies’s third translation of Khoury’s work. The first was the New York Times notable Gate of the Sun, and the second was the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-longlisted and Banipal translation prize-winning Yalo. Those earlier novels, like most by the celebrated Lebanese author, resist conclusion, circling around and around, unfurling stories without reaching an end. (Even Khoury’s 1981 novel White Masks, a detective-style tale, refuses to stop with the unsolved murder of Khalil Ahmed Jaber, instead spawning new, unrelated narratives.)
Paradoxically, Sleeping has a clear endpoint; the whole narrative is contained within the final days of its protagonist’s life. Meelya begins giving birth, she struggles to give birth, and she dies giving birth. But as this happens, the narrative threads in and out, a needle plunging into her past, her dreams, her imagination, and even into the future—into the world that goes on without her. Keep reading on the Ploughshares blog.