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THE BOY FROM THE TOWER OF THE MOON by Anwar Accawi

THE BOY FROM THE TOWER OF THE MOON

By Anwar Accawi

Pub Date: May 31st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8070-7008-4
Publisher: Beacon

A colorful though repetitious memoir of life in a small Lebanese village just after the Second World War. Accawi’s first book is a lament for the lost world of his youth—for the sights, smells, sounds, and rituals of Magdaluna (“the tower of the moon”), a tiny village that now exists only in memory. To connect these reminiscences, Accawi compares himself, for reasons that are not immediately clear, to a pyramid builder, whose “stones” are the ideas, events, people, pets, and, most curiously, the small appliances which have shaped his life. The Magdalunians emerge here as an entertaining if feckless bunch who tend their goat herds and olive groves, marry their cousins, and generally live their lives with little contact with the outside world. When the modern world begins to intrude, traditions that have lasted for centuries—everything from baking bread to gathering at the village spring to dancing the Dabki—quickly disappear. Accawi’s stories, told from a child’s perspective, are peopled with memorable characters such as Teta, his one-eyed Presbyterian grandmother, and Abu George, the virile village blacksmith who stands on his roof and bellows the latest news in a voice that can be heard for miles around. Yet this is a book in which small appliances loom very large. The author devotes entire chapters to the coming of the radio, the gramophone, and the telephone, among others, blaming each in its turn for the village’s downfall, before melodramatically pointing his finger at the automobile, specifically “a shiny black DeSoto standing like a dark, massive monument upon what looks to me like the tomb of the world.” Strangely, the fact that Magdaluna was actually leveled by Muslim fighters during the Lebanese civil war is mentioned almost as an afterthought. Taken individually, these stories can transport the reader to another world (—The Telephone” was included in The Best American Essays 1998). Taken together, they sound so much alike that the exotic finally becomes mundane.