Love in Exile
by Taher, Baha'
In Love in Exile Bahaa Taher presents multilayered variations on the themes of exile, disillusionment, failed dreams, and the redemptive power of love. Unwilling to recant his Nasserist beliefs, the unnamed narrator is an Egyptian journalist in a self-imposed exile in Europe after conflict with the management of his newspaper and a divorce from his wife. Absorbed in introspection over his impotent position at the paper and in ill health, he suddenly finds himself faced with two issues he cannot ignore: the escalating tensions in Israeli-occupied Lebanon and, more personally, an unexpected love affair with a much younger Austrian woman, Brigitte. The narrator’s familial exile has left him a “long-distance father” facing the difficulties of raising children from whom he is rapidly growing distant. His son is drifting into fundamentalism while his daughter falls under the materialistic sway of the west. After struggling mightily to remain part of their lives, he finds himself marginalized and rejected. Brigitte, also an exile of sorts, encourages him to turn his back on the problems and pressures of the everyday world and cocoon himself in the warmth of their love.However, the horror of events surrounding the occupation of Lebanon in 1982 soon shocks them out of their contentment and safety. The issues of love, regret, complacency, and complicity are explored in this haunting work. Bahaa Taher’s highly original novel-“an expansive vision that encompasses world and homeland, north and south, self and other” (l’tidal Osman, Nidaa magazine)-is eminently captured by Farouk Abdel Wahab’s fluid translation.