‘No Road to Paradise’: How a Novel Described by a Prize Judge as ‘Stagnant’ Wins (and Deserves) Awards

The 2013 novel has been translated into precise, understated English by Marilyn Booth, who previously worked on Daoud’s challenging Penguin Song. In No Road to Paradise, these themes are brought together in the life of a small-town imam whose father cannot speak, whose children cannot hear and whose wife doesn’t like him. Also: Even though   No Road   isn’t a light and easy   read (or especially for those reasons), one hopes there is some recognition for the beautiful craftsmanship of translator Marilyn Booth, who has put excellent work into re-crafting Daoud’s detached style in English, a topic on   which you can read more, if you like. For instance:   “a state of non-action” (judge   Tahia Abdel Nasser) and “slow, meticulous, stagnant narration” (Rasheed El-Enany) and “a stagnation” (also Rasheed El-Enany), which makes the book sound a bit like having x-rays done at the dentist: a mildly discomfiting process that seems as though it will never, ever end. And it’s true, the book is discomfiting, but in ways that make us re-see not just a small-town Shi’a imam in Lebanon, but also   our own lives, and our own separation from our lives, our inability to completely join the stream of it. And also:
Daoud has an obsessive fascination with the difficulties of human connections, including the connection with our internal “I”. There are a few more details in the review in   The National,   which opens:
Lebanese novelist Hassan Daoud is a master chronicler of bodily illness, uneasy relationships and social isolation. (Perhaps people who don’t read books can completely join the stream of their lives. They’re not reading this.)
In a Venn diagram of “books about small-town imams” and “books about dying of cancer” and “books that explore   the distance between ‘perception’ and ‘reality,’” there is surely only No Road to Paradise,   and the style Daoud has perfected: of minuscule relatable details, building up an utterly real human, but one unable to connect to themselves. Instead, there are the beautiful details of trying to get comfortable on a hospital bed, or communicating with your children, or the hardest struggle of all: to know one’s own mind. You might have been surprised about the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature   judges’    comments about the book that won in 2015,   No Road to Paradise:
Perhaps, if you’d already read Daoud’s   Penguin’s Song,   in or out of Marilyn Booth’s excellent translation, you would have known how to understand the judges’ comments on the prize-winning No Road to Paradise. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrPinterestPocketLike this:Like Loading…‹ Friday Finds: Ahmed Shafie, ‘I Did Not Find Poetry Where I Left It’Categories: Lebanese There are no great joys or sorrows in No Road to Paradise, nor are we allowed any deep intimacies. Who knows. You can read the entire review   online. It is because Daoud is so successful that his books are a difficult pleasure.