LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR TRANSLATED FICTION
“Gorgeous . . . Lush, elegiac [and] Márquezian . . . A novel of abundance and generosity.” —Sarah Cypher, The Washington Post
“Richly embroidered . . . [Khalifa’s] galloping narration restores life and soul to a city that has become a byword for devastation.” —The Economist
From the National Book Award finalist Khaled Khalifa, the story of two friends whose lives are altered by a flood that devastates their Syrian village.
On a December morning in 1907, two close friends, Hanna and Zakariya, return to their village near Aleppo after a night of drunken carousing in the city, only to discover that there has been a massive flood. Their neighbors, families, children—nearly all of them are dead. Their homes, shops, and places of worship are leveled. Their lives will never be the same.
Hanna was once a wealthy libertine, a landowner who built a famed citadel devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and excess. But with the loss of his home, wife, and community, he transforms, becoming an ascetic mystic obsessed with death and the meaning of life. In No One Prayed Over Their Graves, we follow Hanna's life before and after the flood, tracing friendships, loves and lusts, family and business, until he is just one thread in the rich tapestry of Aleppo.
Khaled Khalifa weaves a sweeping tale of life and death in the hubbub of Aleppine society at the turn of the twentieth century. No One Prayed Over Their Graves is a portrait of a people on the verge of great change—from provincial villages to the burgeoning modernity of the city, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews live and work together, united in their love for Aleppo and their dreams for the future.
About the Author
Khaled Khalifa (1964–2023) was born near Aleppo, Syria, the fifth child of a family of thirteen siblings. He studied law at Aleppo University and actively participated in the foundation of Aleph magazine with a group of writers and poets. A few months later, the magazine was closed down by Syrian censorship. Active in the arts scene in Damascus where he lived, Khalifa was a writer of screenplays for television and cinema as well as novels that explore Syrian history. His 2019 novel Death Is Hard Work was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Praise for No One Prayed Over Their Graves
“A gorgeous new novel from Khaled Khalifa, one of Syria’s most celebrated novelists . . . Lush, elegiac . . . Márquezian . . . A novel of abundance and generosity . . . At stake is the act of storytelling itself: gossip, religious narrative, war photography, any narrative in which bigotry can reside . . . The pain of witness surfaces across the story.” —Sarah Cypher, The Washington Post
"A beautiful novel . . . Khalifa’s partnership with Leri Price is one of the most fruitful writer-translator pairings in literature today. The recent destruction of Aleppo provides unspoken context, charging the exploration of ruin and aftermath with further heartbreak." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Love stories—thwarted, tragic or ecstatic—help bring a many-stranded plot together . . . Richly embroidered . . . [Khalifa's] galloping narration restores life and soul to a city that has become a byword for devastation. Leri Price, who also translated Death Is Hard Work from Arabic, has produced an English text of grace, pace and gusto. Aleppo’s 'immortal' monuments may have been bombed to rubble, but, thanks to Mr Khalifa, those 'great stories' endure." —The Economist
From the first, the Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa scores his latest for full orchestra . . . It summons every instrument, from tuba to triangle, in a rising crescendo of sorrow . . . [This is] historical fiction scrupulous in its detail yet breathtaking in its scope, and altogether magnificent." —John Domini, The Brooklyn Rail
"Through its intimacy and grace, No One Prayed Over Their Graves is a heart-wrenching and beautiful exploration of change in Syria." —Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books (a July must-read)
"Elegantly written . . . the extraordinary closing pages, poetic and prophetic, speak to the possibility of building a “kingdom where life is fresh and tender and the fish never die” . . . A small epic that blends magic realism with grim realities, always memorably." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Lyrical . . . [the book is] carried along by Khalifa’s ornate writing, often in the style of Middle Eastern classical poetry and lucidly translated by Price . . . There's beauty on each page" —Publishers Weekly
Praise for Death Is Hard Work | Finalist for the National Book Award
“[A] brilliant, blackly absurdist road-trip novel, a restaging of As I Lay Dying in the thick of the world’s most brutal civil war . . . Khalifa skillfully condenses the trip’s detours and delays into a breakneck narrative that seems unstoppably tilted toward tragedy . . . Unforgettable.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“Searing . . . Khalifa is a soulful and perfectly unsentimental writer . . . Leri Price [. . .] is alive and faithful to the Syrian’s unadorned and direct prose, sentences that often bring together the poetic and the horrific . . . Robust in its doubts, humane in its gaze, and gentle in its persistence.” —Hisham Matar, The Guardian
“Masterly . . . Novelists like Khalifa are so critical in these times . . . With Death Is Hard Work, Khaled Khalifa has, intentionally or not, also laid claim to [Faulkner’s mantle].” —Elliot Ackerman, The New York Times Book Review
“Astonishing . . . Khalifa employs a shifting array of voices and reflections, moving from perspective to perspective, present to past and back again. The effect is a persistent deepening, as stories are introduced and then revisited, details added through the play of memory . . . The power of the novel—of all Khalifa's novels—is that it unfolds within a human context, which pushes against and resists the prevailing social one.” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times