Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Saqi Books, 2023
Kuwait, 2013. Sara, a philosophy professor at Kuwait University, is accused of blasphemy and threatened with execution for teaching Nietzsche in one of her classes. As she contends with the terrifying possibility of her death, she begins to reflect on her difficult relationship with the country of her birth and her bifurcated sense of identity. Why does she continue to stay in a place she recognizes less and less and that increasingly limits self-expression? Will she recant her ‘blasphemy’ or risk her life to defend intellectual freedom?
Interspersed with Sara’s narrative are the stories of the women who shaped her: her grandmothers, Lulwa and Yasmine; her mother, Noura; and her childhood carer and surrogate mother, Maria. Deftly weaving together their experiences of immigration, love and loss, Al-Nakib crosses decades and continents to chart Kuwait’s transition through the 20th century, from a pearl-diving port town to an oil-rich state. She movingly explores the devastating effects of the Gulf War on Kuwaiti citizens and residents alike and the complicated effects of geopolitical violence on individual lives.
An Unlasting Home is a powerful multigenerational saga that explores the political history of the Arab region, the familial bonds that connect us to the past and the choices we make to define our freedom.
Mai Al-Nakib is author of the novel An Unlasting Home and the short story collection The Hidden Light of Objects, winner of the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award in 2014. Her fiction has been published in Ninth Letter, The First Line, After the Pause, and The Markaz Review. Her essays have appeared in World Literature Today, BLARB: Blog of the LA Review of Books, and the BBC World Service, among others. She is associate professor of English and comparative literature at Kuwait University.