Blackbodying

By Dimitri Nasrallah
Photographs by Camille Nasrallah

Blackbodying
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Blackbodying recounts the first-hand exile stories of two Lebanese citizens and their routes to Canada. Both have been forced to leave their homeland as a result of civil war, but only the first is afforded the opportunities the second so badly wants. His exile, at a very young ... Read more


Overview

Blackbodying recounts the first-hand exile stories of two Lebanese citizens and their routes to Canada. Both have been forced to leave their homeland as a result of civil war, but only the first is afforded the opportunities the second so badly wants. His exile, at a very young age, has afforded him an international childhood, an American education, cultural affluence, and the ability to assimilate into almost any society he enters. The second, a destitute, beyond-his-prime optimist named Sameer Gerdak, is afforded nothing of the kind. To think that an Arab foreigner without North American credentials can penetrate this prosperous Canadian reality is a well-worn fiction. So Sameer Gerdak believes. The two protagonists' paths intersect only slightly, but the result of their meeting is at once profound and chilling.
Blackbodying speaks to the most personal ramifications of civil war, telling the stories of those who can't shake the idea that something better must exist. Surrounded by bed-wetters, child actors, bisexual dads, dead horses, independent film-makers, prostitutes, taxi drivers, and one of the most indelible and lecherous villains in recent memory, John Spier, a low-level pimp with no hands, Sameer Gerdak and his youthful, anonymous counterpart weave a portrait of humanity that simultaneously attests to our best and worst intentions.

Awards

  • City of Montreal's Grand Prix du Livre 2005, Short-listed
  • Independent Book Publisher Awards 2005, Short-listed
  • Quebec Writers' Federation Award for a First Novel 2005, Winner

Reviews

"The immigrant experience is one of the central themes - some might say the central theme - in contemporary fiction. Finding a fresh perspective on it, and a style to match, is no simple matter. Blackbodying, the debut novel by Lebanese Montrealer Dimitri Nasrallah, manages exactly that, among other things. The experience of immigration has been captured uncannily. On this evidence, there's little limit to where Nasrallah might go. "
- Montreal Review of Books, Spring 2005
"Blackbodying unfolds conventionally, but with a vivid, highly evocative focus on visual and sensory detail that borders on the obsessive, echoing W. G. Sebald's masterpiece of memory and minutiae, Austerlitz. "
—The Globe and Mail, 2005
"The finest anti-Canadianization novel I have read. Blackbodying reflects the terror of our times, in writing and in reality. A work of remarkable scope, interweaving themes of emotional and geographic exile, as well as tackling political and cultural issues in a sophisticated and unpredictable way. Yet Blackbodying is much more than a clever manipulation of narrativity
and authorial wit: it is chiefly memorable for the power and range of its varied representations of contemporary reality. "
—QWF Jury Comments, 2005
"Nasrallah's narrative style — clinical and precise — perfectly reflects his protagonist's detachment from the flesh-and-blood stories about him. Nothing is absolute in Blackbodying, its narrators cannot be trusted and its conclusion is far from a satisfying inevitability — yet still it 'works' remarkably well. "

—Popmatters, 2005

“The immigrant experience is one of the central themes - some might say the central theme - in contemporary fiction. Finding a fresh perspective on it, and a style to match, is no simple matter. Blackbodying, the debut novel by Lebanese Montrealer Dimitri Nasrallah, manages exactly that, among other things. The experience of immigration has been captured uncannily. On this evidence, there's little limit to where Nasrallah might go. ”- Montreal Review of Books, Spring 2005“Blackbodying unfolds conventionally, but with a vivid, highly evocative focus on visual and sensory detail that borders on the obsessive, echoing W. G. Sebald’s masterpiece of memory and minutiae, Austerlitz. ”–The Globe and Mail, 2005“The finest anti-Canadianization novel I have read. Blackbodying reflects the terror of our times, in writing and in reality. A work of remarkable scope, interweaving themes of emotional and geographic exile, as well as tackling political and cultural issues in a sophisticated and unpredictable way. Yet Blackbodying is much more than a clever manipulation of narrativity and authorial wit: it is chiefly memorable for the power and range of its varied representations of contemporary reality. ”–QWF Jury Comments, 2005“Nasrallah's narrative style — clinical and precise — perfectly reflects his protagonist’s detachment from the flesh-and-blood stories about him. Nothing is absolute in Blackbodying, its narrators cannot be trusted and its conclusion is far from a satisfying inevitability — yet still it ‘works’ remarkably well. ”–Popmatters, 2005“Dimitri Nasrallah has produced a darkly compelling first novel about two Lebanese expatriates who end up in Canada because of civil war. ”–Toronto Star, 2005“Nasrallah takes the reader on a journey deep into the minds and feelings of these characters. Through present events and flashbacks, he reveals how they subconsciously attempt to connect with their past, building illusions that later lead to their collapse. ”– Montreal Gazette, 2005“Beirut-born Dimitri Nasrallah cooresponds to everyone’s idea of what makes a ‘new’ writer. ”–Via Destinations, 2005“The gaps between experience and memory are powerfully explored. ... ”–Concordia University Magazine, June 2005

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