The Disoriented

. World Editions. May 2020. 432p. from French by Frank Wynne. ISBN 9781642860580. pap. $17.99. LITERARY.
In Paris, where he has long lived, Lebanese-born Adam is awakened before dawn by a phone call informing him that his once-close friend Mourad is near death. They have been estranged for reasons that slowly emerge, but Adam immediately boards a plane and arrives in Beirut before midnight. He’s too late, but the tensions provoked by his return and his reluctance to speak at Mourad’s funeral compel him to remain surreptitiously in the country and explore both his past and Lebanon’s present. Adam’s journey unfolds partly through old letters he’s kept and notebooks he fills with reflections, which helps him articulate the existential crisis entailed by self-exile and the seismic shift he’s experiencing now.
VERDICT Having moved from Beirut to Paris with the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, the Prix Goncourt–winning Maalouf (The Rock of Tanios) deftly lets us know how the changes wrought by time’s passage really feel, especially when one has traded continents and cultures.

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