October 22, 2018
Booklist reviews Jabbour Douaihy’s “Printed in Beirut” – “scathing comedy of many errors”

Booklist reviews Jabbour Douaihy’s “Printed in Beirut” – “scathing comedy of many errors”

Published by Booklist, October 2018

“Farid Abu Shaar, a young man earnestly convinced of his own (unproven) literary genius, seeks a publisher for his red-notebook manuscript, The Book to Come. His publication attempts with Beirut’s publishing houses prove futile: “No one reads,” one publisher insists. Although his Karam Brothers Press visit doesn’t lead to publication, he begrudgingly accepts a job as Arabic-language proofreader.

By the second chapter of Lebanese Arab Man Booker short-lister (for June Rain, 2015) Douaihy’s latest novel in translation (and Haydar’s third succinct Anglophonic collaboration), narrative inconsistencies cleverly emerge: Karam Brothers, established in 1908, according to its company sign, is an impossibility, as the four-generations-ago founder had a different name and hadn’t yet procured (stolen) his first press as of 1914. As if to offset Douaihy’s dexterously compounding unreliability, Farid’s work proves “unparalleled,” despite the tedium of proofing instructions, menus, even a phone book. His self-proclaimed masterpiece eventually gets published only to cause his public downfall. Presented as a scathing comedy of many errors, this is a farcical exposé of literary gatekeepers, societal deceptions and hypocrisies, international corruption, and—unsurprisingly—the pitfalls of believing one’s own press.”