Saturday, February 25, 2006

Review of Maalouf's The Rock of Tanios

Amin Maalouf's The Rock of Tanios is the story of a boy from the past in the Catholic mountains of Lebanon. This is a place of myth, superstition, tribalism, feudalism, and loyalty, and ritual. Tanois, born under dubious circumstances, to an obsequious father and a beautiful mother, fights successfully for his education, and unsuccessfully for his true love. A betrayal forces him to flee from their small village of Kfaryabda to Cyprus with his father. When it is safe to return he does, but things are worse.

The story is extremely well written, and extremely Lebanese. I enjoyed it immensely. It is often about romance, often about something a bit deeper, like the search for identity, and struggle for sense.

The undertone of the story is however sadly cliche'd. You have a feudal society because tradition demands you have one. Though it is shitty, people love it because they see that the alternative is colonialism. Bad colonialists. Too bad he had to ruin such a good plot with such an annoying political message. That is of course not to say colonialism was good, it was one of the worst things that ever happened to humanity - that Europe decided it needed colonies. But, to show the evils of colonialism by romanticising what colonialism replaced is nieve.

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