Book review: Hassan Daoud’s No Road to Paradise – a prize-winning exploration of human struggle

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By M Lynx Qualey

hassanLebanese novelist Hassan Daoud is a master chronicler of bodily illness, uneasy relationships and social isolation. 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. The 2013 novel has been translated into precise, understated English by Marilyn Booth, who previously worked on Daoud’s challenging Penguin Song.

It was two years after its publication, in 2015, that No Road to Paradise won the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Arabic Literature. The judge’s comments highlight the contradictions of Daoud’s work. Judge Tahia Abdel Nasser said the novel “evokes a state of non-action”, while prize judge Rasheed El Enany remarked on its “slow, meticulous, stagnant narration”.

It’s not often that a book described as “stagnant” wins a major literary award. Yet the apparent inertia of No Road to Paradise, like that of Penguin Song, also bristles with the desperation, hope and unhappiness of ordinary human life. Read more

Source: The National

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