Le Rocher de Tanios (The Rock of Tanios) by Amin Maalouf
As our narrator informs us, the Rock of Tanios, which sits outside his village of Kfaryabda in the Lebanese mountains, was believed for two centuries to bring bad luck, since the local villager after whom it was named was last seen sitting on it before his mysterious disappearance in the year 1840. Tanios, born to Lamia, the beauty of the village, may or may not have been the son of the local Sheikh, and Tanios’ life, intimately linked to the fate of his village, was shaped by a series of momentous events, even as the mountain was being disputed between the Egyptian, Turkish, French and English powers. Maalouf is an outstanding raconteur and the pleasure I had of reading him in the original French language can’t be overstated. I read the excellent Baldassare’s Odyssey almost a decade ago while on a trip to France, and based on that book alone decided that Maalouf was one of my favourite writers of all time. My only regret when it comes to Tanios is that I didn’t read it when I first heard about it around 1993, when it won the prestigious French Goncourt prize, but I have every intention of catching up on lost time and reading everything by Maalouf I can get my hands on in near future, including Samarcande, which I already have in my possession.
For now, I’ve decided to continue the reading schedule I’ve adopted this year, which consists of alternating between great literary works and crime fiction books, which for now seems to provide me with just the right balance of intellectual stimulation and easy reading pleasure, though I must say that in Amin Maalouf’s case, both qualities are far from being mutually exclusive.