"The Parisian": Isabella Hammad in conversation Emily Nemens

A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize-winner Isabella Hammad, "The Parisian" illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence. Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from Nablus, a town in Ottoman Palestine. A dreamer, a romantic, an aesthete, in 1914 he leaves to study medicine in France, and falls in love. When Midhat returns to Nablus to find it under British rule, and the entire region erupting with nationalist fervor, he must find a way to cope with his conflicting loyalties and the expectations of his community. The story of Midhat’s life develops alongside the idea of a nation, as he and those close to him confront what it means to strive for independence in a world that seems on the verge of falling apart. Against a landscape of political change that continues to define the Middle East, "The Parisian" explores questions of power and identity, enduring love, and the uncanny ability of the past to disrupt the present.

Zadie Smith calls it “a sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful. It is realism in the tradition of Flaubert and Stendhal — everything that happens feels not so much imagined as ordained.” She adds, “That this remarkable historical epic should be the debut of a writer in her mid-twenties seems impossible, yet it’s true. Isabella Hammad is an enormous talent and her book is a wonder.”

Nathan Englander calls it “a lushly imagined, beautifully written, expansive powerhouse of a debut.”

Jonathan Safran Foer writes that it’s “a gripping historical novel, a poignant romance, and a revelatory family epic. Above all, it is a generous gift. There is a kind of joy that can hold not only pleasure, but struggle, and even sadness. This novel tells that kind of joyful story, and evokes that kind of joy in the reader.”

Isabella Hammad was born in London. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction for her story “Mr. Can’aan.” Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review. "The Parisian" is her first novel.

Emily Nemens joined The Paris Review as editor in 2018. Stories published during her tenure at The Southern Review were selected for the Pushcart Prize anthology, Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize anthology, and "PEN America Best Debut Fiction." Her debut novel, "The Cactus League," is forthcoming from FSG.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 7:00pm



McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince St.
New York, NY 10012



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