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The Bookseller's Notebooks' Depicts Finding New Dreams Requires Delving Into The Depths Of Grief

‘The Bookseller's Notebooks’, by Jordanian novelist and poet Jalal Barjas, which was just translated into English and won the International Award for Arabic Fiction 2021, portrays the story of Ibrahim, whose existence is shaped by the fantasies he has created for himself. Ibrahim, who also has schizophrenia, walks across Amman, Jordan, feeling utterly abandoned and disappointed in Paul G. Starkey's translation from Arabic to English. He embarks on a crime rampage around the city as he views the world through the eyes of many personalities and characters from novels he has read.

Ibrahim, a bookseller, has been left without a family, a job, and a sense of direction in life. Just his father's bookshop remained, but King Hussein Street's expansion will also mean the destruction of that as well. The voices inside Ibrahim's head become louder and more insistent as he drowns in overwhelming loneliness. He is forced to make choices that strain the boundaries of his sanity and morals. Ibrahim transforms himself into the heroes and villains he has read about in his books as a way to cope with his homelessness, mental illness, and the heartbreaking stories of the people around him.

Ibrahim fights to halt the steady spiral into madness at every opportunity, but as tragedies pile up and he encounters pitiful people, Ibrahim uses his power to alter his entire personality to fit the personalities of the characters in his novels. Ibrahim commits crimes under the guises of many characters, such as Quasimodo from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Said Mahran from "The Thief and the Hounds," with the voices inside him urging him to uphold justice and fight for the greater good.

With the use of generational pain, society's outcasts, and injustice, Barjas' compelling story alludes to a worldwide social structure that unfairly excludes too many people. Ibrahim is used by Barjas as a means of highlighting the lives of marginalized individuals who want to live whole lives but are unable to do so because of outside circumstances. As Ibrahim retreats into his books and prior suffering, living in the past, he reconciles his loss by forging on and finding any means of surviving.

Author and poet Jalal Barjas was born in Jordan in 1970. He was an aeronautical engineer before running the Jordanian Narrative Laboratory and serving as the host of the "House of the Novel" radio show. He has written two collections of poetry in addition to short stories and novels including "The Earthquakes" and "Guillotine of the Dreamer," which won literary awards in 2013 and 2014. In 2019, his book "Women of the Five Senses" received an IPAF award nomination.

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