The Angel of History (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Rabih Alameddine is the author of An Unnecessary Woman, a staff favorite here and a 2014 National Book Award finalist. If that book was blackly funny and melancholic, this (his newest) is as angry and beautiful as a lit match. Flirtatious, ribald Satan and severe Death try to sway Jacob, a gay Yemeni-born poet who's tormented by memories, to their respective rhetorical positions over the course of one night spent in a San Francisco psychiatric clinic. Satan wants Jacob to remember every painful moment from his life, and Death thinks Jacob should forget them. As Jacob revisits his past while considering each argument's merits, the novel brings its intense focus to bear on political and social issues--the 80s AIDS crisis, tech industry-fueled gentrification, the ongoing US-armed Saudi Arabian bombings in Yemen--that are urgently relevant to the present. It's ambitious, spellbinding, and related in a lyrical style that's easy to sink into.

— From Christina


"There are many ways to break someone's heart, but Rabih Alameddine is one rare writer who not only breaks our hearts but gives every broken piece a new life."--Yiyun Li
Following the critical and commercial success of An Unnecessary Woman, Alameddine delivers a spectacular portrait of a man and an era of profound political and social upheaval.
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past and dour, frigid Death who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by 14 saints. Set in Cairo and Beirut; Sana'a, Stockholm, and San Francisco; Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrait of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound, philosophical and hilariously winning story of the war between memory and oblivion we wrestle with every day of our lives.
"Rabih Alameddine is one our most daring writers--daring not in the cheap sense of lurid or racy, but as a surgeon, a philosopher, an explorer, or a dancer."--Michael Chabon

About the Author

Rabih Alameddine is the author of the novels An Unnecessary Woman; I, the Divine; Koolaids; The Hakawati; and the story collection, The Perv.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802125767
ISBN-10: 080212576X
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 304
Language: English