Stone of Laughter, The

by Hoda Barakat

The Stone of Laughter is a bold and radical novel, full of black humor and cynical observations about life in a war-torn city. The fractured narrative is woven around Khalil, an androgynous young man who is town between masculinity and feminity. Trying to avoid ideological or military afficliations, he finds himself confronted with the collapse of his civil society and reacts by withdrawing into his domestic life. His only contact with the world at large is through friends at a newspaper, for whom falling bombs may mean great stories and promotion, rather than tragedy or destruction. Khalil struggles to keep himself away from the war but is inevitably drawn in as he realises that in a city at war, no one can remain neutral. Written sensitively, and without a trace of sentimentality or political propaganda, The Stone of Laughter shook the preconceptions of Arab readers about women’s writing and the necessity of political affiliation for Arab writers. Hailed by many critics as the best novel set against the background of the Lebanese civil war, it wond the prestigious Al-Naqid Award for first novels.