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Rabih Alameddine: The Wrong End of the Telescope

Read Thursday, 14 Oct 2021
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Speaking with journalist Joumana Khatib for a recent profile in the New York Times, Rabih Alameddine – painter, author of five novels and a collection of short stories, and recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship – said he has never felt total acceptance in any of his respective communities, in Lebanon, in the U.S., in the gay community, or in the writing community. ‘I always get accused by the Lebanese that I’m writing for a Western audience. I get accused by the West that I’m writing for a Lebanese audience. The truth is, I don’t care about either of them.’ Instead, it could be said, Alameddine uses fiction to carve out space for himself and the perspectives he implores us to rethink.

In his new novel, The Wrong End of the Telescope, Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp’s children. Soon, a boat crosses, bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya’s secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants’ displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.

Author of Afterglow and Chelsea Girls Eileen Myles says, ‘The Wrong End of the Telescope is the best kind of prose. Lines break out like poetry and the story muscles on, telling.’ And Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers, writes that ‘Rabih Alameddine is a master of both the intimate and the global – and The Wrong End of the Telescope finds him at the top of his craft.’

To join Alameddine for a digital conversation about his remarkable career and this deft and timely new novel, click here.

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