Adonis Diaries

“Ain Wardet” (Village) by Jabbour Douweihy (Book Review)

Posted on: April 28, 2009

“Ain Wardet” (Village) by Jabbour Douweihy (Book Review, April 26, 2009)


Note: I like a novel to be told chronologically; Ain Wardet was not; it is in Arabic and was translated into French.  I could not read it in one trait but as I finished the third of the story then I knew that I had to review it.  A general event becomes a particular one; a common person takes the dimension of an individual. I started taking notes knowing that the review will be in chronological order, no matter what: the reader of review needs clarity before he gets excited to venture on the original manuscript.


It is the family of Al Baz (Hawk) that immigrated to Egypt and settled in Alexandria; it made a fortune and got bankrupt as the price of cotton plummeted.  The grand parent Francis Senior remembered that he had a country of origin and relative in Lebanon and they returned home.  Francis Sr. built a large house in the mountainside village of Ain Wardet (Rose Eye or Rose Fountain) and close to the Capital Beirut.

The Al Baz carried on the traditions and celebrations of Alexandria for many years and clung to friends from Alexandria.  They could speak Egyptian Arabic slang but wrote in French.

The first generation of Al Baz is of Francis Jr., Massoud, and Nouhad.  Massoud was simple minded and pissed anywhere outside when the urge demanded.  Massoud predicted his death to the hour and removed all the patron saints pictures in his room before he died; for example, Saint Joseph disliked people who never used the proper tools.

Nouhad was a tiny spinster that played the matriarch and she maintained the household and the family “status and honor”.  At the end of any serious disagreement with the family she would declare “If I am a burden then I am going up to pack and leave”.  Nouhad was a prude girl and never admitted that girls should entice men for marriage because either you fall in love or you don’t.  She ended suffering from Alzheimer and moved to a retirement community in Bhorsaf.

Francis was led by the director of the internal security to believe that he would be candidate to the parliament on the list of the President of the Republic.  In return, Francis had to accommodate an Arab tribe in his basement that moved from Syria and were given Lebanese citizenship.  Consequently, Francis would have the authority to buy and sell over 200 heads of the eligible tribal members at election times.  As the patriarch of the tribe told it the tribe was located in Mohammara near Homs.  One morning an infant stopped suckling and cried pointing westward. The tribe took down the tents and moved for months, guided by the baby’s finger, until they reached a mountain side in Lebanon; then, suddenly the baby stopped crying and his smile showed his only two front teeth.

Francis married Julia of Beirut.  Julia was the only kid in her family and educated at a French nuns school; the French Admiral would arrive with his fleet as her dad was in Jerusalem trading gold.  Nouhad had no liking for Julia and saw to it that no furniture should be displaced.  Francis had Joujou, Rida, and Sara.

Joujou was over 35 when he married Marguerite, a very young Austrian girl studying archeological artifacts in Lebanon during summer.  Rida was a master chess player, aloof, and strong headed; at the age of 10 Rida demanded his own chair at the dining table; he wrote and posted the dishes that he didn’t like, and the family did its best not to antagonize Rida.  Sara married a Moslem contractor working in Kuwait.

By the time the civil war in Lebanon started the family was already financially broke but the house and the land could not be sold; a special contract called “Progeny inheritance” with clauses that postulated that only the third generation could dispose of the property or any function made of it.  This clause prevented Marguerite to carry on her dream project of transforming the first floor as European restaurant.

Rida fell in love head over toe with Nadia and they began reading the 7 volumes of Marcel Proust’s “Reminiscence of lost times”.  I will skip this enchanting tale of love story.  Nadia died of car accident and Rida decided to isolate in his room.  The war trauma generated whiteness in Rida’s fingers that progressed to cover his face.  I will skip the corny tale of Rida encounter of the Arab “Femme Fatal” who was abused by her brothers for gain.  I have already published a chapter of the war events under the title “Siege Attitudes…”  Good reading.

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April 2009

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