Lit & Found: Hoda Barakat’s ‘The Return of the Non-Prodigal Sons’

Hoda Barakat’s “The Return of the Non-Prodigal Sons” appears in the most recent issue of Asymptote, translated by Tarek El-Ariss:

Barakat, a Lebanese author who lives in Paris and publishes fiction in Arabic, won the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for her Bareed al-layl (The Night Post), which was translated to English by Marilyn Booth and published as Voices of the Lost.

Photo credit: International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Kheridine-Mabrouk

This essay, “The Return of the Non-Prodigal Sons” echoes the attached un-attachedness of The Night Post, and even the sense that these connections happen in the night, off-book, outside of ordinary pathways: “We part ways and disperse in the night, gesturing that we will be in touch soon.” In the essay, she echoes that “we are not a community,” however: “We are not a community, but a thin thread infiltrates us and ties us a little closer together when we realize that one of us is about to move back to the homeland.”

It opens:

We are not a community, we who stayed abroad. We don’t resemble one another or share common bonds. We rarely meet, and when we do, for some occasion, we part ways and disperse, speaking of staying in touch. We’ve reached a stage where we now spare each other false reproaches. We part ways and disperse very quickly, relieved to have avoided a heavy moment that would disrupt our life here, which flows like a calm river. A heavier moment still when it’s a Lebanese occasion such as a film or a lecture about Beirut, or something which we attend to support and commiserate with and feel less guilty. 

Read the essay on Asymptote.