Rabih Alameddine – The Angel of History

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Rabih Alameddine – The Angel of History


Satan has to have a word with Death, somethings wrong with Jacob and for quite some time they got along quite well. But now, Jacob, a poet by devotion, is looking for help in a psychiatric clinic. It is not the first time Jacob is there, but this time, things seem to be serious. While waiting for the doctor, he thinks back to the time when he was a child, first fleeing Yemen with his mother, then finding shelter in a whorehouse in Egypt. Years later his father puts him into a church school in Lebanon. But also newer memories arise, his lovers whom died one after the other, his cat who picked Jacob and his roommate albeit they never wanted to care for a pet. Like this, the evening advances slowly.

Admittedly, I had serious problems finding into the novel. The most problematic was that I could not perceive the different parts as belonging to the same book. The discussion between Satan and Death is quite absurd and funny, here Alameddine can really entertain the reader. Much more interesting but also depressing are Jacob’s memories of his childhood, especially his time in Cairo which, due to the conditions, could have left deep scars and negative feelings but are remembered as a time of being loved and feeling secure. This all is at times interrupted by the poet’s work of art which somehow does not relate at all to the rest and then the actual situation in the waiting room with his roommate sending texts to find out what is wrong.

Rabih Alameddine has a poetic style of writing and to my perception, whenever we move with the plot to the Middle East, no matter which country, his is strongest in his expression and narration. Nevertheless, there was no real development in the character, action I did not expect from the description, but such as it is, I could not really make sense out of the story.