Poison in the Air: A Novel (Paperback)

Poison in the Air: A Novel By Jabbour Douaihy, Paula Haydar (Translated by) Cover Image

Poison in the Air: A Novel (Paperback)

By Jabbour Douaihy, Paula Haydar (Translated by)


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The final novel from one of Lebanon’s greatest writers and narrator of Lebanese life.

Poison in the Air, Jabbour Douaihy’s final novel, chronicles the decades of social, political, and economic turmoil leading up to and including the recent collapse of his beloved Lebanon after the horrific explosion that occurred at the Port of Beirut in 2020. Douaihy brings a multitude of bottled-up toxicity to the surface, as though he is writing his last letter to the world, or a suicide note for Lebanon, as he paints a picture of a society marching down a path to self-destruction.

A first-person narration by an unnamed male protagonist, his generation’s journey—like his country’s history—seems to echo that of the phoenix. While that mythical creature is continually reborn from its own ashes, ever resilient, we now see it once again plummeting back into the fire, but as if nearly defeated, “filled with the poison of disappointments.” (Elias Khoury, L’Orient Litteraire, 2021) As imagined by Douaihy, being cut off from others and absorbed in self-interest brings out humanity’s most lethal, destructive nature.

Poison in the Air might serve as a warning to us all about the dangers of isolation and polarization, about what happens when we “sentence ourselves” to listening only to our own voices. The novel’s bleak portrayal reflects how essential it is to break out of self-contained bubbles and, like the butterfly he depicts striving toward the light, reunite with the outside world and re-embrace others, in body and in spirit.
Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021) was born in Zgharta, northern Lebanon. He received his PhD degree in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne and was Professor of French Literature at the Lebanese University. He has published eight works of fiction, including novels, short stories and children’s books. His novel June Rain was also shortlisted for the inaugural IPAF in 2008. His novels June Rain, The American Quarter, and Printed in Beirut are published in English by Interlink Books.

Paula Haydar is Clinical Assistant Professor of Arabic at the University of Arkansas. She holds a PhD degree in comparative literature and an M.F.A. degree in literary translation. She has translated numerous novels by contemporary Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian authors. Her translation of Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy’s June Rain was selected as the highly commended runner-up of the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation and also made the Daily Star’s list of Top Middle East Novels of 2014. Her translations of Lebanese authors also include three novels by Elias Khoury (Gates of the City, The Journey of Little Gandhi, and The Kingdom of Strangers) and three novels by Rashid al-Daif (This Side of Innocence , Learning English, and Who’s Afraid of Meryl Streep?). Her translations of novels by Palestinian writers include Sahar Khalifeh’s The End of Spring and Adania Shibli’s Touch (Interlink). Her most recent translation is What Price Paradise by Jordanian writer Jamal Naji.
Product Details ISBN: 9781623717544
ISBN-10: 162371754X
Publisher: Interlink Books
Publication Date: January 30th, 2024
Pages: 192
Language: English
“The air of this novel is filled with the poison of disappointments, and these are the disappointments of a Lebanese generation that searched for meaning and did not find it.”
— —Elias Khoury, L’Orient Litteraire

“Douaihy wrote several novels throughout his life, and though he never intended this role, critics and friends regarded him as the narrator of Lebanese life. He wrote about aspects of Lebanese life that history books could only dream of capturing, detailing Lebanon throughout its various historical moments to its current state of dystopian ruin and collapse, a world seen vividly in his last novel, Poison in the Air.”
— —Elie Chalala, Al Jadid

“Douaihy illuminates Lebanon’s tumultuous recent history in brief … readers will be both enlightened and charmed.”
— —Publishers Weekly on Printed in Beirut

“Douaihy’s masterpiece … A powerful portrait of identity and division in Lebanon.”
— —The New Arab on June Rain

“This novel is Douaihy’s most accomplished, subtle, and captivating.”
— —Livres Hebdo on The American Quarter

"As Lebanon descends into civil war, a romantic young man turns into a monster. Displaced from his hometown, our unnamed protagonist turns to books and bouts of moody introspection. Drawn to the aesthetics of revolution, he pens pithy slogans and briefly runs away to Jordan to join a pro-Palestinian militia. Back in Beirut, he teaches high school and tries to write, but his energies are mostly devoted to women, whom he seduces by complaining about the disappointments of life and the “burden of his fantasies.” Eventually he settles down with a philosophy student, whom he attacks with a cane when she ruins a diorama of his hometown. Released from jail, he shoots at passing cars with a sniper rifle. Meanwhile, confrontations between Sunnis and Shiites escalate, and Beirut crumbles. Twisting a likably naive protagonist into a malevolent beast, Douaihy (The King of India, 2022) invites readers to contemplate the losses and cruelties of a collapsing Lebanese society. The author’s final novel, completed just before his death in 2021, closes his oeuvre on a dissonant, mournful note."

“Death … It is the way in which he dances around it, approaches it, moves away from it, revels in it, that is mesmerizing … A masterpiece.”
— — Transfuge

“Magnificent yet pessimistic … clear, economical, and restrained writing.”
— — Le Monde

“A novel of petrifying acuity … A masterpiece.”
— — Le Journal du Dimanche

“There is no doubt that in imagining his character, so disconcerting, so unsettling, so definitively amoral, Jabbour Douaihy thought of Meursault, whom Albert Camus made his ‘Stranger’”
— — Le Telegramme

“Sensitive … Tribute to the cultural richness of a region ravaged by war.”
— — Politis

"Dark and elegiac beauty."
— — Le Courier de l'Atlas