Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

New review: Lanterns of the King of Galilee by Ibrahim Nasrallah

Electronic Intifada, 11th February 2015

Daher al-Umar, born around 1690 near Tiberias in the Galilee, was the son of a multazim or tax-gatherer for the Ottoman Empire. His family had contacts with both the region’s Bedouin community and with the Maan and Shihab emirs of southern Lebanon — a reminder of the unnatural and ahistoric nature of the borders which are now enforced on this part of the Middle East.
Drawing on these various allegiances and on the frustration of many Galileans at the high taxes and arbitrary rule of the Ottomans, Daher al-Umar founded what was effectively an independent kingdom in northern Palestine, acquiring titles which included governor of Safad, sheikh of Acre and Galilee, and emir of Nazareth.
Although he ultimately met a bloody end, Daher lived to be over eighty, and through his comparatively fair and just rule (by the standards of the time), became a kind of folk hero and — in the works of recent writers such as Karl Sabbagh — an early manifestation of a Palestinian national consciousness.
The Lanterns of the King of Galilee is a hefty, satisfying novel — like Nasrallah’s previous work Time of White Horses. With more than 500 pages, it combines romance, adventure, well-researched historical narrative, national creation-story and a coming-of-age tale.

The full review is here.

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