Title: The Angel of History
Author: Rabih Alameddine
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Release Date: October 4th 2016
Genre(s): Literary Gay Fiction
Page Count: 294
Reviewed by: LenaRibka
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Following the critical and commercial success of An Unnecessary Woman, Alameddine delivers a spectacular portrait of a man and an era of profound political and social upheaval.
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past and dour, frigid Death who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by 14 saints. Set in Cairo and Beirut; Sana’a, Stockholm, and San Francisco; Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrait of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound, philosophical and hilariously winning story of the war between memory and oblivion we wrestle with every day of our lives.
I decided not to write a long exciting review for this book. Not because I don’t have thoughts to share.
When I said I wrote The Angel of History to provoke, I meant that I wished to elicit feelings that readers did not expect, not necessarily by using shock or surprise. I wanted to write a book that broke the fourth wall by playing with feelings, by switching paradigms, by rattling cages.
Well, I can say now, with his new novel, the author achieved what he intended to do.
I am not sure I’ve ever read something like that before – a prose that can be read as a poem, because it is written in such a beautiful and lyrical way.
Though the most amazing thing about this book, along with the writing style – is how the author talking about such serious topics like war, religion, politics, hate, love, AIDS, death, grieving, forgetting not just made me cry, but he also made me laugh. Believe or not, this book is also funny. I always admired this skill by writers.
The Angel of History is insanely brilliant and Rabih Alameddine’s writing is provokingly ingenious. Even if I don’t fit into his idea of a perfect reader for his books –
I’m going to read everything he wrote or will write.