Night of the First Billion, The

by Samman, Ghada

Set in Geneva, Switzerland, around the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, this intricately plotted novel probes the emotional misfortunes of Arab men and women fleeing the horror of war only to find their ways of life constantly challenged by their foreign surroundings. The author’s scalding critique of the Lebanese situation resonates with strong sociopolitical issues. Here are telling portraits of class oppression and the role of women in Arab society, the treatments of war and sexuality, of immigration, of cultural assimilation and nationalism. With supreme artistry and insight – and in modern Arab literary fashion – Ghada Samman skillfully blends realism with fantasy into a highly stylized, thematically multilayered tale. It is at once a Gothic romance and a suspenseful whodunit with engaging characters. At the same time it is a gripping study of social injustice and the consequences of wartime upheaval. Far from home and out of harm’s way, Samman’s Lebanese exiles repeat and replay the very same conflicts that torment them in their own land even as it is under siege. Night of the First Billion is an eloquent reminder that the only genuine security in the most profound and human sense of the word is to be found in the courageous willingness to confront, challenge, and finally to ease suffering.