Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
House of Stone, By Anthony Shadid. Granta, £14.99
Wednesday 28 November 2012
Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Shadid, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, died in February this year. Just 43, he suffered a fatal asthma attack while trying to leave Syria on horseback.
After separating from his wife in 2006, Shadid visited his family's derelict home in old Marjayoun, now southern Lebanon. Fatigued by war-reporting, he resolved to restore the house, built by his great grandfather after the First World War, to its former glory in order to establish a sense of bayt (home) for himself and his young daughter.
To many of Shadid's acquaintances in Marjayoun, his decision seemed an act of madness. Shadid couldn't even claim outright ownership of the house as the inheritance was shared between numerous descendants. However, he persisted with his venture, learning how to haggle and deal with the erratic working practices and incessant squabbling of the local builders and craftsmen.
Of all the characters in this memoir, perhaps the most memorable is Khairalla Mady, a former doctor, oud maker and keen gardener, who is dying of cancer. Khairalla had been accused of treason for having continued to run the local hospital during the Israeli occupation. Despite his impeccable reputation and good works only one person, a British-born professor, spoke up for him and helped him avoid a prison sentence.
Khairalla's experience is emblematic of the rumours, betrayals and life-long vendettas that seem to abound in Marjayoun. Many of the town's inhabitants are convinced Shadid is an American spy, and that the US embassy is paying for the house.
Interwoven with his own experiences, Shadid recreates his family's migration to 1920s' Oklahoma, vividly imagining their alienation as they adapted to a new culture.
Turbulent political unrest forced Shadid's family into exile and war brings him home. It is a terrible irony that Shadid's reclaiming of bayt, his sense of "belonging", was cut short because of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies: Georgian guide to London sex workers acquired by Wellcome Collection
House of Cards season 3: Claire Underwood is based on an eagle, says Robin Wright
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut