The Wrong End of the Telescope
DescriptionWINNER OF THE 2022 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTION
By National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine, comes a transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman's journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island.
Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp's children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya's secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants' displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.
Not since the inimitable Aaliya of An Unnecessary Woman has Rabih Alameddine conjured such a winsome heroine to lead us to one of the most wrenching conflicts of our time. Cunningly weaving in stories of other refugees into Mina's singular own, The Wrong End of the Telescope is a bedazzling tapestry of both tragic and amusing portraits of indomitable spirits facing a humanitarian crisis.
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About the Author
RABIH ALAMEDDINE is the author of the novels The Angel of History; An Unnecessary Woman; The Hakawati; I, the Divine; Koolaids; and the story collection, The Perv. In 2019, he won the Dos Passos Prize.
Early Praise for The Wrong End of the Telescope:
"Spectacular...Alameddine's irreverent prose evokes the old master storytellers from my own Middle Eastern home, their observations toothy and full of wit, returning always to human absurdity." --New York Times Book Review
"Provocative...Alameddine makes an argument for writing even when writing fails. Especially when writing fails. What else is there?" --San Francisco Chronicle
"A prismatic, sui generis story that's unafraid of humor while addressing a humanitarian crisis, threading a needle between that urge to witness and the recognition that doing so may be pointless."--Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times
"With enormous generosity and knowing humor...The Wrong End of the Telescope is an unequivocal masterpiece." --Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness
"A shape-shifting kaleidoscope, a collection of moments--funny, devastating, absurd--that bear witness to the violence of war and displacement without sensationalizing it...The Wrong End of the Telescope is a gorgeously written, darkly funny and refreshingly queer witness to that seeking." --BookPage
"The great strength of this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Alameddine (An Unnecessary Woman) lies in how it deftly combines the biographical with the historical; the small, more personal moments often carry the most weight. A remarkable, surprisingly intimate tale of human connection in the midst of disaster." --Library Journal (starred review)
"No one writes fiction that is more naturally an extension of lived life than this master storyteller...Engaging and unsettling in equal measure." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Profound and wonderful...A wise, deeply moving story that can still locate humor in the pit of hell... A triumph." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Mina is a riveting narrator, struggling to find her footing even when the weight of her identity is crushing.... A kaleidoscopic view of the many facets of the refugee crisis." --Booklist
"The Wrong End of the Telescope is the best kind of prose. Lines break out like poetry and the story muscles on, telling. The setting is real history which I'm hungry for and Rabih Alameddine queers it handsomely with all kinds of love and a feeling that existence is pure experience, not language at all and the shape of this book, right up to the end, is a becoming." --Eileen Myles
"Rabih Alameddine is a master of both the intimate and the global -- and The Wrong End of the Telescope finds him at the top of his craft. A story of rescue, identity, deracination, and connection, this novel is timely and urgent and a lot of fun." --Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
"The incomparable Rabih Alameddine's latest novel shows sly wit, poetic turns of phrase, and the slow-burning outrage at the ongoing Mediterranean refugee crisis--but I particularly love his understated handling of Mina, the novel's transgender narrator. Her identity is not a battlefield for the culture wars, just a refreshingly unproblematic perspective from which a story unfolds." --Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution
Praise for The Angel of History:
"Rabih Alameddine is one of our most daring writers--daring not in the cheap sense of lurid or racy, but as a surgeon, a philosopher, an explorer, or a dancer."--Michael Chabon
"A remarkable novel, a commentary of love and death, creativity and spirituality, memory and survival . . . brilliant . . . [it] hits an emotional nerve."--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Alameddine, entrancing and unflinching, is in easy command of his bricolage narrative, and he leavens its tragedy with wit."--New York Times Book Review
"A sprawling fever dream of a novel, by turns beautiful and horrifying, and impossible to forget. Alameddine is a writer with a boundless imagination . . . [his] writing is so beautiful, so exuberant."--NPR
Praise for An Unnecessary Woman:
"A meditation on, among other things, aging, politics, literature, loneliness, grief and resilience. If there are flaws to this beautiful and absorbing novel, they are not readily apparent."--New York Times
"Irresistible . . . [the author] offers winningly unrestricted access to the thoughts of his affectionate, urbane, vulnerable and fractiously opinionated heroine. Mr. Alameddine's portrayal of a life devoted to the intellect is so candid and human that, for a time, readers can forget that any such barrier exists."--Wall Street Journal
"Alameddine has conjured a beguiling narrator in his engaging novel, a woman who is, like her city, hard to read, hard to take, hard to know and, ultimately, passionately complex."--San Francisco Chronicle
"A restlessly intelligent novel built around an unforgettable character . . . A novel full of elegant, poetic sentences."--Minneapolis Star Tribune