Book of the Month: Amen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid
Author: Lina Gharbi University of Valladolid
“For you, a thousand times over.”
“…there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft.”
Love is “unconditional.” But, regret !! it is always conditional, regret is most likely driven by what was not done. Redemption is what we seek to soothe the haunting pain of regret and that smile; Sohrab’s tiny hidden smile was Amir’s hope of a probable remedy.
Our book recommendation of the month is The book of Khalid, one of the long-awaited re-publications of the first Arab American novel. Rihani’s book represented a source of inspiration for Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet; it deals with the Arab and American relations, the existing religious conflict, and the American immigrant experience. The book of Khalid describes the adventures of two Lebanese men, Khalid and Shakib, who moved to New York to get a better life. However, they stumble upon some difficulties during their immigrant lives that often ended with humiliation and comic payoff.
Written by an Arab American author and published in times of global geopolitical crisis (1911), the novel provides an essential contribution to American and world literature. It is divided into three parts, Book the First, Book the Second, and Book the Third where the author is illustrating critically the aspects of Islam, spirituality, and politics. He also suggests a dramatic vision of the existing relations that could have taken place between the Americans and the Arabs during the leadership or near the collapse of the Ottoman order. Additionally, Rihani chose to use English to reach out to the American readers’ needs and allow them to connect to the topics narrated and form more accurate perceptions and ideas regarding such a distant culture. One of the essential aspects in the book is based on these two migrant individuals’ hardship, culminating with the part in the book in which Khalid convinces Shakib to return to Lebanon; despite such a decision, their experience and contact with the “new world”‘s ideas has marked them, which would be challenging to forget.
What I find interesting is the comparison and analysis established by the book to shows the need to improve the understanding of the Western culture on the part of Arabic subjects, and vice versa. For instance, the call for political progress and religious unity and tolerance in the Arabic world highlights some of the most relevant differences. Overall, I highly recommend reading this eye-opening and groundbreaking masterpiece since it is useful in highlighting the Western literary conversations between the Arab and the Western world.
Rihani, Ameen. (1911) 1973. The Book of Khalid. Beirut: The Rihani House.
Lina Gharbi obtained her BA in English studies, literary stream, and MA in advanced English studies: languages and cultures in contact. She is a PHD candidate at Valladolid university. Her fields of interest are: Arab American studies, identity issues and struggles in exile, cultural studies.