Kamal Jann

Written by Dominique Eddé | Translated by Ros Schwartz
Kamal Jann
Written by Dominique Eddé
Translated by Ros Schwartz
(Seagull Books, July 2014)

In a world rife with deceit, the fortunes of the divided Jann family echo the conflicts tearing apart the Middle East, Syria in particular. Set in Damascus, New York, Beirut, Tel Aviv and Paris, Dominique Eddé’s gripping novel contains elements of a Greek tragedy—fratricide, strong women, alliances and misalliances of all hues, damaged lives and impossible loves. Betrayal is everywhere—members of the doomed Jann family plot against one another while CIA chief Weiner dupes his own agent, Jonathan Red. Similarly, in the Saudi Ben Zad family, cousins are at loggerheads and the British agent in the pay of head of the Syrian intelligence defects to Mossad. Women too stop at nothing in pursuit of their own ends. The influence of La Bardolina, the fortune-teller, is rivaled only by that of the 90-year-old Sitt Soussou, while her daughter Riwaya plays her own dark game. This is a decaying world undermined by decades of abuse and corruption, against which the Arab peoples rose in the spring of 2011.

The New York–based Syrian lawyer Kamal Jann enters into a Faustian pact with the CIA in a desperate attempt to avenge his parents’ murder and to save his brother, Murad. Beneath the charm and reserve of this quiet man lies a vein of madness—Jann, in Arabic, means to have gone mad. The time is that of urgency. It is the time of a collusion between an ancient past and a present sick of repeating itself and of the spread of blinkered Islamism. The space is that of the East fused with the West, mutually infiltrated and contaminated.

Written in a language that is raw, powerful and rich in imagery, Kamal Jann has been hailed by
French critics as both universal and prophetic, a novel that is vital to our understanding of Syria and the Middle East.

Dominique Eddé was born in Beirut in 1953 and now lives in France and Turkey. Best known as a novelist and essayist, her articles have appeared regularly in Le Monde and Le Nouvel Observateur. She initiated and led an international photographic assignment in Beirut in 1991 with six photographers including Robert Frank, Josef Koudelka and Gabriele Basilico, which led to the publication of Beyrouth Centre-Ville. Her novels include Pourquoi il fait si sombre? (1998) and Cerfvolant (2003). The latter was published in English translation by Seagull Books in 2012 and was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in the US. Kamal Jann has received the prestigious PEN Promotes grant from English PEN.

Ros Schwartz has translated over 60 titles from French including a new version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. Her co-translation (with Amanda Hopkinson) of Dominique
Manotti’s Lorraine Connection won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger Award in 2008.
Her translation of Dominique Eddé’s Kite was published by Seagull Books in 2012. In 2009, she was made a Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres.

Reviews:

‘A multilayered novel, alarmingly topical, both geopolitical thriller and Dostoyevskian tragedy – like an oriental version of the Brothers Karamazov.’ -- Véronique Rossignol, Livres Hebdo

‘A giant fresco of the Middle East, Dominique Eddé exposes today’s Syria: captivating and tragic.’-- Le Canard Enchaîné

‘Kamal Jann shines a light on the unfathomable Syrian regime from within. With the brio of a thriller the novel portrays the devastated lives of the Middle East.’ -- Le Monde

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