News Press
October 9, 2019
National Book Award: Khaled Khalifa is a finalist with “Death is hard work”

National Book Award: Khaled Khalifa is a finalist with “Death is hard work”

The mission of the National Book Award is to “celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture”

The winner will be announced on November 20th.

rp_Khalifa-DeathIsHardWork-FSG-Cover-196x300-1-196x300-196x300-196x300.jpgDeath is hard work has received a lot of praise (see below) in the various countries where it was published (see list of cessions below).

Bulbul’s father just passed away in a Damascus hospital. His last request to his son was to be buried in his hometown of Aannabiya, in the province of Aleppo.

Bulbul accepts his father’s request only to be terrified by the enormity of this last wish after he passes away. Damascus, the Syrian capital, is under the control of the Assad regime while Aleppo is under the control of the rebels and extremist factions. Driving from one area to another, with a body in the car, is expectedly quite a difficult task.

With his brother Hussein and his sister Fatima, Bulbul heads to Aannabiya at dawn. Normally a trip of just a few hours, they hope to reach their destination in the night given the circumstances. They won’t make it in less than 3 days.

The three siblings hadn’t come together in years and Fatima sees in this road trip a sacred occasion to mend their broken ties. They have indeed grown quite apart.

Through this journey, and with his characteristic visual and sensual writing, Khalifa depicts with accuracy what Syria has become. Violence is common currency and the sight of dead bodies on the side of the road, or the sound of approaching shells, barely moves the protagonists of the story. They have grown accustomed to death and its multiple faces. At the same time, with the father’s rebirth as a revolutionary in his old age, and with that of Bulbul, who is freed of fear in the most gruesome circumstances, the book carries an unexpected and very welcome message of hope.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, USA, World English, 2019)
Faber, UK (Spring 2019)
Bompiani, Italy (2019)
Rowohlt, German (2018)
De Geus, Netherlands (2018)
Sindbad, Actes Sud, France (2018)
Green Books, India, Malayalam (2019)
Sonia Draga Publishing, Poland (to appear)
Prozart, Macedonia (to appear)
Kastaniotis, Greece (to appear)
Houpaa books, Iran (to appear)
Angustura, Iceland (to appear)
Pax, Norway (to appear)


The New York Review of Books

“Brilliant”   “Unforgettable”
Wall Street Journal

Los Angeles Times

“Wryly compelling”
Financial times


“Robust in its doubts, humane in its gaze and gentle in its persistence”
The Guardian

Compelling” “night-black variation on Faulkner‘s ‘As I lay dying’.”
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Deep black, gruesome, moving comedy”
Literatur Spiegel

“Silent revolution against a human tragedy”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung