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  • The Dusk Visitor (1/4/22)

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    Musa Al-Halool, from Raqqa Syria, has put together 36 tales on the subject of the Syrian Civil War, the Assad government, and the authoritarian style of other Arab dictators. The heart of The Dusk Visitor is short fiction that paints a dystopian landscape, Kafkaesque, life that appears to offer hope and yet is riven with absurdity, unfreedom, fear, and death.

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  • Arab Boy (1/18/22)

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    As Michael maneuvers through his working-class neighborhood delivering groceries, he enters the homes and lives of his customers. He’s confronted by the school yard and street corner violence of local thugs. With the 1967 Arab-Israeli War fresh in public memory, he passes for Greek or Italian and never summons the courage to explain, exactly, who he is or where his parents came from. Michael weighs his obligations to his tight knit family and sees before him a life of constricted ambitions. Then he falls for a radical college coed, returned to the neighborhood after two years of college. She teaches Michael about sex, love, the obligation to protest injustice. His life is buffeted by the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr and the death, two months later, of Bobby Kennedy. His girlfriend opens his eyes to the ongoing national struggle to test national ideals against the growing diversity of America. Michael grieves with a mother whose only son died in the Vietnam War and is embraced by the first black couple who move into the neighborhood. The people he meets shape him. His mind is a potpourri of his experiences: hatred, kindness, his own sexual awakening. Michael struggles to figure out who this dutiful son of an immigrant family is becoming in a rapidly emerging modern world, epitomized by the big, brash, obnoxious city on the other side of the East River..

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  • White Carnations (2/8/22)

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    In White Carnations, the Syrian fiction writer Musa Rahum Abbas, revered in the Arab world, makes his English language debut with 101 tales that sketch life inside and outside Syria during the revolution that began in 2011. The prose in White Carnations is etched, distilled, essential. It recalls curious fables from distant foreign lands. Delicious vignettes and anecdotes are followed with the most absurd and horrific headlines of the Syrian revolution. Other tales document the furious efforts of non-poor Syrians who have escaped for a few weeks or forever. They are burrowing into superficially normal lives in the modern world. Yet their lives are not normal, because they are utterly unable to release the memories of pain and cruelty that they carry with them, like an emotional passport. Cune Press is presenting White Carnations as a companion to The Dusk Visitor. The scholar, translator, and creative writer Musa Al-Halool is the co-translator of White Carnations along with the delightful academic Sanna Dhahir. Note that Musa Al-Halool is the author of The Dusk Visitor. Both books are “light reading” on a serious subject. They explore through the tool of short fiction the fascist style that can slowly and decisively overtake democratic governments. (Yes, Syrian democracy emerged when the French left in 1946. After several years of free elections, an era of coup and counter-coup mixed with democratic maneuvering held sway as the Ba’ath Party gained strength. In 1963, the Ba’ath ousted Nazim Qudsi, considered the last democratically elected president of Syria). Whereas The Dusk Visitor’s commentary applies to several security state governments in North Africa and the Middle East, White Carnations focuses on the eruption of violence and displacement within a single country, Syria, and follows its expats as they struggle in exile. Both books hold lessons for readers who value an open civil society, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and democratic elections as a way to transfer power within democratic institutions.

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  • Nietzsche Awakens! (2/22/22)

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    Farid Younes makes his home in Byblos, a coastal town in northern Lebanon. He lived through both the Lebanese and now the Syrian civil wars. Like all Lebanese, he has plenty of “serious” in his life. The need for him and other Lebanese is to find the distance needed to cope and if possible to move events and circumstances in a better direction. His answer was to create a book that is a literary imitation of a coffee house with an open mic like the famous “Haven—The Cabin” that rests on a Byblos hilltop looking out over the Mediterranean. The author's neighbors meditate over their chess boards or gather in a back corner spinning epic tales of conspiracy as a way of passing time before the next spoken word performance . . . and as a way of making sense of the carnage of war and strife beyond Lebanese borders and the women and children-Syrian refugees-who line the streets in the major cities. Nietzsche Awakens! is a game, yet it ultimately reaches past clever word play and the razor sharp slicing of meaning to depths that Nietzsche experienced in his own life, depths akin to those that Farid Younes has seen face-to-face among his fellow citizens. At a certain point, the parlor game of this book becomes a controlled yet also a thrashing, desperate effort to survive-for one's mind to survive against the ravages of age, and also for the culture as a whole to survive the inanity of rigid thinking, blatant self- dealing, and the other idiocies that prevent us from addressing the primary challenges of our time..

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