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Cities Without Palms Paperback – 30 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 90 pages
  • Publisher: Arabia Books (30 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906697124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906697129
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,431,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

“Once started it is difficult to put down. It is sensational, original, and altogether a magnificent literary debut.”—James Kirkup, Banipal

About the Author

Tarek Eltayeb was born in Cairo in 1959, the son of Sudanese parents. Since 1984 he has lived in Austria, where he is currently a professor at the International Management Center of the University of Applied Sciences at Krems. He is the author of two novels as well as short stories and poetry.

Kareem James Palmer-Zeid is working on his PhD in comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has published translations of Arabic poetry in various journals.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sofia on 9 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
Tarek Eltayeb's 90-page debut novel tells the moving tale of Hamza, a fatherless youth on the cusp of adulthood, who strives to support his mother and sisters in a remote Sudanese village plagued by poverty, famine and disease.

Hamza's tale is a heart-rending tale of the pressures that force people away from the lands of their childhood and the lengths people will go simply to survive. Barely educated, Hamza knows nothing of the rest of Sudan, nevermind the wider world. He needs to work to live and to send money back to his family, but has no skills. He is at once desperately naive and frighteningly vulnerable. However, despite being driven by his family's need, he is also hugely homesick both for his family and for his native land. The palms of the title refer back to the date palms of his village and his strongest childhood memories.

'Cities without Palms' is a story of innocence lost and is at times a powerful read. My only reservation is that this is a very short book with pacing issues - for a novel with so much to say, it's a shame that Eltayeb rushes the later parts of the story. Nevertheless, this is a good read and in the current climate of anxiety about immigration, this novel is a timely reminder that for many, leaving the lands of their birth is not an opportunistic aspiration but very much a last resort.
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By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 24 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This novella was short but powerful. It is narrated by nineteen year old Hamza, whose father had remarried and left him, his mother and two sisters, with no support. They had managed for several years with the help of a neighbouring family, but when drought devastated their village and the surrounding areas, the other family moved away. Hamza now feels the weight of responsibility and decides to seek work in the city. He is inexperienced and uneducated, but ready to turn his hand to anything.

He travels on foot, by bus and in trains, firstly to the nearest big city, Omdurman, then on to Khartoum, into Egypt and finally over to Europe - France, Italy and Holland. Work is never easy to find and the line between employment and crime is distinctly blurred. He makes friends on the way and jobs often come via these contacts. As he travels he sends money back to his family but communication from them is sparse and he worries the whole time, missing his home.

I agree with other reviewers that Hamza is not sufficiently overawed by the sights and sounds he encounters in the big cities and doesn't get into as much trouble as he might, given his circumstances, but this did not detract from the book's message for me. In very few, well chosen words, Tarek Eltayeb paints the picture of desperation that would surround a young man, forced to leave behind everything he holds dear, just to save them. I could clearly see how desperation might turn such a man to crime.

An excellent translation and an author to watch. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
Driven from home 24 Feb. 2014
By DubaiReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This novella was short but powerful. It is narrated by nineteen year old Hamza, whose father had remarried and left him, his mother and two sisters, with no support. They had managed for several years with the help of a neighbouring family, but when drought devastated their village and the surrounding areas, the other family moved away. Hamza now feels the weight of responsibility and decides to seek work in the city. He is inexperienced and uneducated, but ready to turn his hand to anything.

He travels on foot, by bus and in trains, firstly to the nearest big city, Omdurman, then on to Khartoum, into Egypt and finally over to Europe - France, Italy and Holland. Work is never easy to find and the line between employment and crime is distinctly blurred. He makes friends on the way and jobs often come via these contacts. As he travels he sends money back to his family but communication from them is sparse and he worries the whole time, missing his home.

I agree with other reviewers that Hamza is not sufficiently overawed by the sights and sounds he encounters in the big cities and doesn't get into as much trouble as he might, given his circumstances, but this did not detract from the book's message for me. In very few, well chosen words, Tarek Eltayeb paints the picture of desperation that would surround a young man, forced to leave behind everything he holds dear, just to save them. I could clearly see how desperation might turn such a man to crime.

An excellent translation and an author to watch. Recommended.
A book about a "Sudanese experience" for non-Sudanese consumption 24 May 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am sure this book would have been different if Eltayeb were not a professor in Austria but, rather, living among the people he writes about: those Sudanese who are forced from their homes, villages, towns, country because of economic, political or climate change reasons, and who return home. It is as if the audience Eltayeb is really trying to reach are those who misunderstand, distrust and dislike migrant workers, guest workers, those illegals who live among us. And it is because the reader senses that Eltayeb doesn't know enough about those he writes about, we also get a sense that he doesn't tell us enough, doesn't dig deep enough, doesn't get us to see very much.
A human story, with little adventure 9 Oct. 2014
By lulu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm going 4 stars for the portrayal of the human part of leaving home.
I didn't some of the exaggerated/unrealistic parts but can understand them as necessary for the arc of the story. I think the author does a fantastic job in the first 2/3 portraying the true emotions and problems for the main character.
I liked the ending. Without giving too much away( minus how he gets to the end)
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