Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstances, and by the love that grows between them. At once contemporary and timeless,... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstances, and by the love that grows between them. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the culture divide between the first and the third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.
“<p.441-443> It was Zam...but this was not the child I once tucked into bed. He was a bawling toddler when we met, and now a man. Looming, lumbering, slump-shouldered, flabby--with sweaty, clumsy palms...attached to solid, tree-trunk arms. He peeled away my clothes--exposing raw flesh. Then he scooped me up--so that I found myself the child--fragile...And with those tree-trunk arms, he submerged me--awakening my body."”
“<p.445-448> What the body can't process turns to waste. The skin excreets excess heat and water. The lungs filter out carbon dioxide. The liver sifts old red blood cells and toxins from the blood. The kidneys chug out urine. The small intestine saps digested food of its nutrients. The large intestine compacts and wrings dry what remains. The anus expels the feces. The feces are flushed to a communal gathering of shit--then swept away with water. The city wells up with diarrhea and sludge-Raw sewage, factory residue, oil, chemicals-cyanide, arsenic, lead, nitrogen sulfate-All manner of human waste.”
“<p.454> Be ye fishers of men.”
“<p.454> You catch 'em, and Allah will clean 'em!”
“<p.463-466> Six years had passed. I'd left my love with Zam, but my womb was unfaithful...I had a baby on my own,...but neglected my blood-...still devoted to the ideal of the child I raised...Now my baby was dead...and my child was, too-...disappearing into the body of a man...We struck icy water-swallowing mouthfuls of sewage. This awkward form struggled to unwrap me. The space between us filled up with boxes and bottles and plastic bags and half-digested meals. I grasped for something to hold on to...and there it was in Zam's eyes...Looking out from behind a veil-a child's eyes in the mask of a man's face.”
“<p.473-474> A mirrored bowl was filled with water,...and the ink was washed into the bowl...I was asked to make a wish in the mirror,...and drink the inky water...Drink each of the letters...The closest one can get to the text...The body absorbs the message...The word becomes flesh.”
“<p.478> A man is judged by how he honors his guests.”
“<p.497> Habibi once shared the name of his ancestors, but I changed it--to release both of us from the past. Holding that child in my arms, I blessed exclusively the moment, cursing along with the past the future when he would outgrow me. And now, presumably in the future, my heart lived more in that reality than my body did in this. If I let go of this new life, could I permanently inhabit the old one?”
“<p.507> She ought to finish dying so she doesn't continue to weigh you down.”
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