A fable, parable, and confession, the second novel from the acclaimed author of The Meursault Investigation pays homage to the essential need for fiction and to the freedom from tradition afforded by an adopted language.
Having lost his mother and been shunned by his father, Zabor grows up in the company of books, which teach him a new language. Ever since he can remember, he has been convinced that he has a gift: if he writes, he will stave off death; those captured in the sentences of his notebooks will live longer. Like a kind of inverted Scheherazade saving his fellow men, he experiments night after night with the delirious power of the imagination.
Then, one night, his estranged half brother and the other relatives who would disown him come knocking at the door: his father is going to die and perhaps only Zabor is capable of delaying that fateful moment. Sitting next to the father who has ostracized him, the son writes compulsively, retracing an existence characterized by strangeness, abandonment, and humiliation, but also by wondrous encounters with fictional worlds that he alone in the entire village can access.
Zabor, the narrator of Algerian writer Daoud's rich, exhilarating second novel (after The Meursault Investigation), finds salvation in writing. Zabor, Arabic for "psalm," is the first word the narrator ever spoke, and it's also the name he's chosen for himself and for the book he's writing, "the story of shipwreck... a book of a legendary and indispensable inventory," inspired by Robinson Crusoe. As he labors on his opus, details of his backstory and situation emerge: an outcast for being something of an autodidact among the barely literate people of his village, he almost never leaves his house. After his mother died in childbirth, his father left him alone, and his aunt came to take care of him. The episodic chapters touch on various points in Zabor's development, and they're united by his literary passion, where sustenance and the purpose of his existence lie chiefly in the world of the word. He even comes to believe that if he stops writing about the people in his life, they will die an illogical yet moving conceit. A Proustian undertone drives this provocative book, which will resonate with readers who share Zabor's zeal for literature.