Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

8/1/2010 - 7/31/2011

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

"The Gathering Place of Secrets": The Critical Introduction and Translation of a Lebanese Novel

FAIN: FA-55436-10

Christina Elsa Civantos
University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL 33146-2919)

"The Gathering Place of Secrets" is a critical introduction and translation of the Arabic novel Majma` al-Asrar by distinguished Lebanese author Elias Khoury. With copyright permission, I am crafting the first English version of the novel in order to bring it to a broader readership. The novel, through fragmented structure and dialogue with a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, depicts a love triangle, surrounded by secrets, in the midst of civil war. In my critical introduction, I place the novel within its historical, cultural, and literary context and I show that the novel points to humans' futile attempts at uncovering supposed secrets, at establishing ultimate truths,as a dynamic that can feed various forms of violence. Given the current strained relations between the English-speaking world and Arab-Islamic cultures, the introduction and translation of this novel offers both general readers and specialists a much needed window into the many facets of Arab culture and Arab creativity.

Associated Products

The View from Beyond: Diaspora and Intertextuality in Ilyas Khuri’s Majma? al-asrar (Article)
Title: The View from Beyond: Diaspora and Intertextuality in Ilyas Khuri’s Majma? al-asrar
Author: Christina Civantos
Abstract: Ilyas Khuri’s 1994 novel Majma? al-asrar builds a fictional world around a letter “sent” by the Nasar family that settled in Colombia, in García Márquez’s Crónica de una muerte anunciada [Chronicle of a Death Foretold], to cousins who remained in Lebanon. The tale that Khuri spins around this phantom letter refracts the émigré experience through the perspective of one who stayed, using intertextuality and metanarrative to treat issues of migration and estrangement. Within Lebanese narrative fiction, given the country’s high number of émigrés and transnationals, there is a concentration of texts written by authors that have not (yet) emigrated but that portray an émigré community and/or the community left behind that lives with the absence of its émigrés. Such texts can be understood as part of a broader category termed “Migration Literature,” a category defined by the themes of the texts rather than the geographic location or language of expression of the author. As Khuri’s novel plays with shifts in perspective via intertextuality and a structure that highlights metanarrativity, it provides a shift in perspective on the émigré experience. I argue that through these shifts Khuri destabilizes one of the cornerstones of traditional representations of the mahjar experience, telling the émigré story from the other side and through intertextual relationships. Through García Márquez’s Crónica and Imru? al-Qays’ mu?allaqah, among other texts, Khuri’s novel deconstructs the concept of pure, stable origins that is central to discourses of immigrant nostalgia.
Year: 2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Brill journal content page.
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of Arabic Literature
Publisher: Brill

Orientalism and the Narration of Violence in the Mediterranean Atlantic: Gabriel García Márquez and Elias Khoury (Book Section)
Title: Orientalism and the Narration of Violence in the Mediterranean Atlantic: Gabriel García Márquez and Elias Khoury
Author: Christina Civantos
Editor: Kerry Bystrom and Joseph R. Slaughter
Abstract: This essay analyzes how Gabriel García Márquez’s 1981 novella Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold), which narrates a small town honor-killing involving a Levantine Arab immigrant, resonated with the prominent Lebanese author Elias Khoury (Ilyas Khuri). Khoury’s 1994 novel Majma‘ al-Asrar (The collection of secrets) is at once an homage to García Márquez’s narrative techniques and a corrective commentary on the forms of Orientalism, or discursive violence, that linger in Crónica. In Majma‘ al-Asrar, Khoury, while commenting on these Orientalist tensions, also looks beyond them to use Crónica to attempt to understand violence and the narrative act in South Atlantic contexts. This textual encounter demonstrates that contact across the South Atlantic-Southern Mediterranean corridor must attend to the vestiges of imperialist and neo-colonial dynamics in order to avoid the reproduction of various forms of violence.
Year: 2017
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Book Title: The Global South Atlantic: Region, Vision, Method