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Gold Dust [Paperback]

Ibrahim al-Koni , Elliott Colla
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Sep 2008
Rejected by his tribe and hunted by the kin of the man he killed, Ukhayyad and his thoroughbred camel flee across the desolate Tuareg deserts of the Sahara. Between bloody wars against the Italians in the north and famine raging in the south, Ukhayyad rides for the remote rock caves of Jebel Hasawna. There, he says farewell to the mount who has been his companion through thirst, disease, lust and loneliness. Alone in the desert, haunted by the prophetic cave paintings of ancient hunting scenes and the cries of jinn in the night, Ukhayyad awaits the arrival of his pursuers and their insatiable hunger for blood and gold. Gold Dust is a classic story of the brotherhood between man and beast, the thread of companionship that is all the difference between life and death in the desert. It is a story of the fight to endure in a world of limitless and waterless wastes, and a parable of the struggle to survive in the most dangerous landscape of all: human society.


Product details

  • Paperback: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Arabia Books (30 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906697027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906697020
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 858,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“In Gold Dust [al-Koni] takes us on a unique journey deep into the desert, an environment whose detailed and exquisite depiction he has made very much his own… This excellent translation now joins the as yet small repertoire of works in English translation by one of Arabic fiction’s most original voices.” —Roger Allen

“A true journey into the human psyche.’ (Cairo Magazine )

“The desert setting is al-Koni’s strength: its expanse, desolation, and mystery are powerfully evoked.’ (Margaret Obank, Banipal )

“Al-Koni’s novels are aesthetic renderings of the passions of the desert and of the rich legends and cosmology of his people. An encyclopaedic writer who has digested mythologies of the ancient world and literature of the modern world, al-Koni has both a poetic bent and a mystical inclination.” (Ferial Ghazoul Al Ahram Weekly )

About the Author

Ibrahim al Koni was born in Libya in 1948. A Tuareg who writes in Arabic, he spent his childhood in the desert and learned to read and write Arabic when he was twelve. He studied comparative literature at the Gorky Institute in Moscow and then worked as a journalist in Moscow and Warsaw.

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First Sentence
When Ukhayyad received the camel as a gift from the chief of the Ahaggar tribes, he was still a young colt. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Man and his camel in the desert 11 Aug 2012
By DubaiReader TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had a book group discussion on this book and have waited until after that to write this review. I had hoped that our Arabic members would have found more content in it and that perhaps I had missed something. But although they seemed to enjoy it more than I did, the discussion did not produce anything new. It is basically a book about a young man, Ukhayyad, who is given a rather special piebald Mahri camel, exquisitely rare, and his relationship with it.

Ukhayyad chose to refuse the bride that his father wanted for him, to unite two tribes, and married for love. As a result he was ostracised from the community and lived in the desert with his camel and his wife. Famine forced him to choose between his camel and his family and a large part of the book concerns that dilemna.
Ukhayyad struck me as supremely arrogant man and bragged endlessly about his wondrous camel.
When the camel contracts mange, Ukhayyad tries every remedy he knows to cure his beloved friend and finally has to take the advice of a nomad, to go into a certain part of the Libyan desert and feed the camel on silphium, a herb that is now extinct, but causes halucinations if taken in large amounts. The results of this treatment are another significant part of the narrative.
Finally Ukhayyad's actions catch up with him in a rather gruesome ending.

The author did give a lucid description of life in the desert and I had no reason to feel that Elliott Colla's translation was anything but accurate. The bond between Ukhayyad and his camel was well described, leaving no doubt as to the camel's imnportance. However, the main character was supremely unlikeable and behaved inexcusably, which made it hard to feel more than a moment's compassion for his ultimate fate.

This book reminded me of Paulo Coelho's Alchemist in that it felt like a fable and a moralistic story.
Not a book that I would recommend although I am glad that I have read it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Love that camel 6 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
Story about a young Arab and his camel. Not much more than that really. I was unable to determine any central plot or theme. Story about the camel kept at Foreign Legion fort was much funnier
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desert Parable 11 Mar 2011
By B. Berthold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tuareg author, Ibrahim al-Koni, writes of a rare world within Arabic literature: the nomadic life. The translator of al-Koni`s, `Gold Dust,` Elliott Colla writes that, "The Arabic novel has always been dominated by stories of the city." The ever changing dunes, endless baked plateau lands, and stark, barren mountains of southern Libya provide the backdrop to`Gold Dust,' a novel very similar in make-up to his great debut novel, "The Bleeding of the Stone."

Both works focus on the lives of lonely, misanthropic outcasts who suffer indignity and worse in order to protect their natural environments. In `Bleeding,' Asouf is the shy loner whom his father warns to stay clear of his fellow man. Instead, Asouf finds his place among the sacred Barbary sheep, moufflon, and sacrifices himself in order to protect them.

The protagonist of `Gold Dust,' Ukkayyad, shares a similar distaste for his fellow man. Yet, whereas Asouf pursues a life of solitude out of fear, Ukhayyad becomes a misanthrope out of bitter disappointment. Born to a noble family, Ukhayyad is ostracized from his father from the start. He marries a girl not to his father`s pleasing and so begins a journey of exile.

What the sacred Moufflon sheep was to Asouf, a purebred camel, a `Mahri,' is to Ukhayyad. From the moment he receives the Mahri, Ukhayyad is smitten. The novel bounces, twists, and turns through Ukhayyad`s adventures with his camel companion. The Mahri shames Ukhayyad in a camel race and the two flee in disgrace. Both Ukhayyad and Mahri soon become entangled in affairs with the fairer sex. The Mahri catches a nasty case of mange from his amorous adventures, while Ukhayyad falls in love. Ukhayyad soon marries and thus earns his father`s opprobrium, "Marry her and be damned." Soon a son arrives and then a merciless drought plagues the young family. Ukhayyad must choose between his `duty` to wife and son and his `love` for his camel. At his wife`s urging, Ukhayyad pawns his companion for food and soon regrets it. He hungers for the free life he had with his camel.

When the wealthy trader holding the Mahri offers Ukhayyad a sinister deal, disaster is not far off. The trader promises to relinquish the Mahri in return for Ukhayyad`s young and comely wife. Caught in this horrible dilemma, Ukhayyad sacrifices his family for the return of his friend. Yet, things don`t go so smoothly. The trader has spread a lie about Ukhayyad selling his wife and son for a mere pinch of gold dust. Noble-birthed Ukhayyad realizes such a slander will mark him as an outcast forever, a man without honor, a punishment worse than death in this nomadic culture. For Ukhayyad, revenge and permanent exile are his only options.

"Gold Dust' meanders from adventure to misadventure with no apparent destination. A structured plot and sequential order to things are lacking. Characters appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly. The underlying causes of Ukhayyad`s predicaments are often difficult to unveil. Yet, as with Asouf in `The Bleeding of the Stone,' Ukhayyad is the sole thread to be followed. The other characters serve as incidental foils to Ukhayyad`s struggles. Despite such ramblings, the novel does redeem itself with a dramatic and rather unexpected ending.

The message here is simple and cynical: man is wolf to his fellow man. (to paraphrase Janusz Bardach). Al-Koni`s vision is as unsparing as it is intriguing. Only in apartness and exile from others, can humans find a modicum of peace and freedom. And what one loses in community, one gains in a deepened attachment to the natural world and to its denizens. For those attuned to such a message or at least willing to examine it, Al-Koni`s novels open up a brave new world.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolution 12 Feb 2011
By Leslie Arthur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Great book with a accurate translation from the original Arabic. Very relevant considering the recent
events in Egypt.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Man and his camel in the desert 17 Aug 2012
By DubaiReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had a book group discussion on this book and have waited until after that to write this review. I had hoped that our Arabic members would have found more content in it and that perhaps I had missed something. But although they seemed to enjoy it more than I did, the discussion did not produce anything new. It is basically a book about a young man, Ukhayyad, who is given a rather special piebald Mahri camel, exquisitely rare, and his relationship with it.

Ukhayyad chose to refuse the bride that his father wanted for him, to unite two tribes, and married for love. As a result he was ostracised from the community and lived in the desert with his camel and his wife. Famine forced him to choose between his camel and his family and a large part of the book concerns that dilemna.
Ukhayyad struck me as supremely arrogant man and bragged endlessly about his wondrous camel.
When the camel contracts mange, Ukhayyad tries every remedy he knows to cure his beloved friend and finally has to take the advice of a nomad, to go into a certain part of the Libyan desert and feed the camel on silphium, a herb that is now extinct, but causes halucinations if taken in large amounts. The results of this treatment are another significant part of the narrative.
Finally Ukhayyad's actions catch up with him in a rather gruesome ending.

The author did give a lucid description of life in the desert and I had no reason to feel that Elliott Colla's translation was anything but accurate. The bond between Ukhayyad and his camel was well described, leaving no doubt as to the camel's imnportance. However, the main character was supremely unlikeable and behaved inexcusably, which made it hard to feel more than a moment's compassion for his ultimate fate.

This book reminded me of Paulo Coelho's Alchemist in that it felt like a fable and a moralistic story.
Not a book that I would recommend although I am glad that I have read it.
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