What's New
Niko longlisted for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Award
I'm thrilled to report that Niko has made the 2013 IMPAC Dublin Award longlist, alongside 153 other international novels!  You can view the entire longlist here.

Niko to be published in Turkey
Turkish-language rights for Dimitri Nasrallah’s second novel, Niko, have sold to Everest, the Turkish publisher of Rawi Hage, Zadie Smith, and Penelope Lively, among many other renowned English-language authors. Publication of the Turkish edition of Niko is scheduled for Spring of 2014.
Nasrallah on France's Tonino Benacquista in the Toronto Star
In the Toronto Star's books section, I review The Thursday Night Men, the latest novel by French author Tonino Benacquista.



Niko reviewed in Montreal's Rover Arts

Never Never Land

Niko, by Dimitri Nasrallah, Véhicule Press

Dimitri Nasrallah’s second novel is centered on the playful and exuberant Niko, opening with his early childhood in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Surrounded by a near constant backdrop of machine gun fire and exploding bombs, his proud and loving parents protect his innocence by, for example, asking him to hide from ‘ghosts’ (not militia) when the fighting gets close to their home.

Following his mother’s death at the age of 6, Niko and his father Antoine, whom he venerates, flee the war. Their journey passes through several countries, one of which is Canada and, in particular, the hometown of the author, Montreal.

Economic with words and avoiding much embellished language, the novel’s arc is finely crafted and gallops along. The narrator’s point-of-view seamlessly drifts in and out of different characters’ consciousness; from the growing and evolving Niko, to the optimism and changing rationale of his father, as well to other central characters as they emerge. These changes become rapid towards the conclusion of the book, keeping it tense and addictive. The story’s driving plot gives it a Hollywood-like quality, which may or may not be praise depending on your cynicism about the film industry.

The evocative heading of the final chapter, “In the Afterlife of Our Origins,” elegantly summarises the book’s central investigation in to the psychological and social ramifications of diaspora. The journey, as much psychological as it is geographical, winds through trauma, diaspora, hybridization of identity, and segregation. The family narrative unravels and characters come to terms with the burden of history, “the ways in which your past creeps up on you,” and the post-traumatic stress observation that “the darker a particular past, the more trouble he has bringing it up to the surface.”

Throughout, there is an underlying tension in relation to the homeland: “Antoine surmises that they have not escaped the war after all, that perhaps they may never out run it,” and “Once you leave, Lebanon may as well be on another planet.”  There are also tensions in relation to their new home; the author makes a clear attempt to squash the idealised perceptions and hopes of a life in the western world with the pithy comment that “Citizenship was like a hollow reward.”

Niko is tragic, spirited, resilient and very affecting. In one resonant point, an articulation of love, I had to take a breath: “there is room in his heart to love many people, some of whom have hearts that beat stridently in his memory…”

Niko is rooted in Diaspora but there are some stirringly pertinent observations that I imagine anyone making a new start somewhere, or being separated from loved ones will relate to.

Martyn Bryant is a writer based in Montreal. (martynbryant.wordpress.com)