Hoda Barakat , Marilyn Booth (translator) – Voices of the Lost

Hoda Barakat’s novel, Voices of the Lost manages to pull off quite a feat. This is a novel about war, it is a political novel. It is also a novel about love, ranging from filial to romantic, abuse, trauma, , fatherhood, motherhood it’s all in there. Like a piece of tapestry this novel weaves in themes, which create multi-layeryed result.

The book takes the form of letters written by strangers. In some cases there is a tiny bit of cross referencing. However. each letter has it’s own theme, yet eneveloped by a major one. Whether it is a lover questioning his right to fatherhood or a son confessing about a love affair, there is an onrush of emotions, the majority of them traumatic. All are connected as the country these six strangers are writing in is ravaged by war and, ultimately the ongoing war is causing this strife.

Barakarat does not stop with letters though, there’s two further parts in the book which is a continuation of the strangers destinies as one may guess, these characters ends varies.

Somtimes unsettling, cerebral Voices of the Lost is a one of a kind novel. I would also add that Marilyn Booth’s translation, as I come from a country which utlises a semitic language and it’s not easy to convert into English, is fantastic and captures the emotions of all the characters. Having won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, I would not be surprised to see it garner more awards this year.

Many thanks to Oneworld for providing a copy of Voices of the Lost

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