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Khayrallah Center Awards Khayrallah Prize to Lebanese Author

Architectural detail of Talley Student Union. Photo by Marc Hall

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The Khayrallah Center is pleased to announce that Lebanese author Charif Majdalani is the recipient of the 2017 Khayrallah Prize. 

Charif Majdalani. Image courtesy of New Vessel Press.

Majdalani was awarded the Khayrallah Prize, which includes a $2,500 award, for his novel Moving the Palace (translated by Edward Gauvin; published by New Vessel Press). Early next year, Majdalani will travel to NC State for a public ceremony in which he’ll receive the award and talk about his work.

“The Khayrallah Prize has a special resonance because it is conferred by an esteemed research center at the heart of a great university,” Majdalani said of the award. 

In its third year, the Khayrallah Prize identifies, awards and publicly honors those whose original artistic productions and projects capture the experiences of Lebanese immigrants, their relationship to Lebanon and their new homes, their communities and peregrinations. Click here for more information about the Khayrallah Prize and to see past winners.

Khayrallah Center Director Akram Khater says Moving the Palace stands out “because of its rich details and eloquence in exploring an unusual and unexplored part of the Lebanese diasporic experience.”

“Its richness is leavened with humor, with self-deprecating asides and post-modern reminders that this is an imagined history,” Khater says. 

It is also a circular journey that brings Majdalani’s protagonist, Samuel Ayyad, back to the shadow of Mount Sannine.

“In this he departs from narratives of migration that are so focused on departure that they miss the many who return bringing back with them disassembled palaces to rebuild in Lebanon, and to rebuild Lebanon itself,” Khater says.

About the Book

Image courtesy of New Vessel Press.

Moving the Palace is the saga of an early 20th century adventurer, who leads a caravan out of Africa, across the Sinai and up through Palestine and Syria, all the way to his homeland, Lebanon. The caravan’s cargo is, as per the title, a palace. Yes, an actual palace, broken down into its component parts — doors, window frames, roof tiles, mirrors, the very stone blocks of its walls — all numbered for reassembly and loaded onto many hundreds of camels in a line stretching so far that it takes a fast horse 10 minutes to gallop its length. At the head of the caravan is Ayyad, the grandfather of the book’s narrator, and his journey home is a modern Odyssey.

Along the way, Ayyad encounters skeptic sheikhs, suspicious tribal leaders, bountiful feasts, pilgrims bound for Mecca and T.E. Lawrence in a tent. Or, as the New York Times Sunday Book Review noted, this is “a Middle Eastern heart-of-darkness tale that flows like a dream, occasionally turning nightmarish, but is always rendered with a hypnotic quality… Majdalani’s novels are much praised in the Francophone world, and with good reason. His seductive prose twists and turns, deftly matching hallucinatory content with form.”

By the end of the book, Majdalani has joined together disparate elements — the elegant and the ironic, the historical and the imagined — to leave us with a renewed sense of wonder about those who migrate.