From many true-life tales collected throughout Lebanon and its refugee camps over the course of seven years, Elias Khoury has created a monumental and spellbinding saga, putting human faces to a political tragedy at the forefront of the news even today.
In a makeshift hospital in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut, Yunis, an aging Palestinian freedom fighter, lies in a coma. His spiritual son Dr Khaleel - who has no real medical qualifications – nurses the older man, refusing to admit that his hero may never regain consciousness.
In an attempt to revive his patient, Khaleel, like a modern-day Sheherazade, begins telling Yunis the stories of their people’s exile in Lebanon. He evokes deserted peasant villages, the suffering caused by the Lebanese civil war and the refugees’ hopes to return home with a subtle mixture of anger and compassion. Khaleel also narrates Yunis’ own extraordinary life: his childhood in Palestine and his commitment as a member of the fedayeen.
Writers in Translation helped with the launch of Gate of the Sun, the fourth PEN supported title, by hosting Elias Khoury in conversation with Tariq Ali in November 2005.