Hoda Barakat’s “The Night Post”: Revealing Voices and a Question of Structure

The five voices of these five letter-writers aren’t related to one another in any way, except through the postman who carries their messages and is trapped in the cycle of war in an unnamed county. Instead, they’re just titled: “To my father,” “To my brother,” “To my sweet mother,” or “To my dear… because that’s how the letters should begin.” Furthermore, there’s no hint as to where the senders live, because they are always in a temporary place, such as a hotel room, or in an airport waiting for a plane. Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat, one of the finalists for the 2015 Man Booker International, has written six novels, three of which have been translated into English. Her latest novel is The Night Post:
By Mahmoud Hosny
In her recent novel The Night Post (Dar Al-Adab, 2018, 128 p.), the Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat (1952) worked on building her sixth book with five letters, where the senders will never again meet the receivers. If we see the previous question as an existential one, we can also face a technical question about the ability of the postman to serve as a thin thread, connecting the five stories, without any other relation between them. It is rather the need to reveal things to them; the need to write about deep emotions that can’t be said aloud to any one in the places they inhabit. Intersections, Interactions, interventions, or perhaps interrogations—any of these words seem to be the ways in which we talk about how a novel is built. Yet why we should need to classify this sensitive, unlabeled text under a genre to which it mostly doesn’t belong? The postman’s chapter appears as a novelistic technique, a center at which the voices meet. But in a country without street address or house numbers as a consequence of war, what kind of work can he do? In 2002 she became   Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres   and then the   Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite National   in 2008. It seems that the letters’ senders are not waiting for replies or explanations from the other side. She won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel   The Tiller of Waters   and the al-Nagid Award for   The Stone of Laughter.  

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Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading…‹ Teaching with Arabic Literature in Translation: Classical Texts That ‘Capture a Sense of Marvel, Wonder, Humor, And, Above All, Adventure’Categories: Lebanese The situation the postman finds himself in makes the letters just stories, “Stuck as dead papers, in the corners of empty streets.”
These are letters without addresses. Is this “postman” as a way of architecting the novel enough to turn these free-standing voices from “fictional letters” into a “novel,” without intersections between the letters writers and each other? Even the more fortunate ones seem to be suffocating as they seek a fresh start elsewhere. With violence surrounds them on all sides, the novel’s characters, who are all Arabs, travel to escape or to seek refuge. But the refuge that the West seems to offer is mostly an illusion, and the characters all have to face their failures.