A big, exquisite novel about friendship, betrayal, nostalgia, ideals, politics, and the world as it is.
One night, a phone rings in Paris. Adam learns that Mourad, once his closest friend, is dying. He quickly throws some clothes in a suitcase and takes the first flight out, to the homeland he fled twenty-five years ago. Although in exile Adam has become a respected historian, back among the milk-white mountains of the East his past catches up with him: his childhood friends have all taken different paths in life—and some have blood on their hands. Loyalty, identity, and the clash of cultures and beliefs are at the core of this long-awaited novel by the French literary giant Amin Maalouf.
May 12, 2020
1. What did you expect when you first picked up The Disoriented? Did it meet your expectations, or did it perhaps give you something completely different?
2. Did Adam’s “Circle of Sophists” remind you in any way of your own friend groups, present or past?
3. What did you think of the love between Sémi and Adam? Would things have been different in different circumstances?
4. Was Dolorès’s choice understandable? Did she really have the option to say no to Sémi’s request?
5. Was Adam a coward for not going to Mourad’s funeral? Or was he rather very patient in his interactions with Tania, Mourad’s widow? Perhaps both?
6. How do Muslims, Christians, and Jews interact where you live? Could you find any similar dynamics in The Disoriented?
7. Do you have friends who belong to different religions? Would you say you manage to overcome your religious differences?
8. Does the author seem to favor any particular point of view (except Adam’s) on the Lebanese conflicts? How about on the relations between Western and Middle Eastern societies?
9. Was there any character in the story who you strongly disliked?
10. Was Nidal’s—the “radical militant’s”—perspective very alien to you? Could you understand where he was coming from?
11. Did you see the ending coming? What do you think it means?
12. Can you tie your interpretation of the ending to Adam’s planned formal speech?
13. Does the novel as a whole convey a hopeful message?
14. Does The Disoriented make you want to visit Lebanon?
15. Would you be interested in reading more by Amin Maalouf? Or a different novel by another author with a Lebanese background?
Praise for Amin Maalouf
“Maalouf is a thoughtful, humane and passionate interlocutor.”
―The New York Times Book Review
Praise for The Disoriented
“A thoughtful, philosophically rich story that probes a still-open wound.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Both analytic and allegorical” —The Wall Street Journal
“The Disoriented, published in French in 2012 and at last in Frank Wynne’s assured English translation, is a profound reckoning…While the title alludes to being wrenched from the east, The Disoriented also signifies the universal loss of a moral compass.” —MAYA JAGGI, The Guardian
“A thoughtful novel about loss and identity.” —The Herald Magazine
“There are novels which reverberate long after you’ve finished reading them. Amin Maalouf’s The Disoriented is such a novel. This is a voyage between the Orient and the West, the past and the present, as only the 1993 Goncourt Prize winner knows how to write it.” ―Le Figaro
“Maalouf writes intriguing novels of exceptional quality.” ―NRC Handelsblad
“Amin Maalouf gives us a perfect look at the thoughts and feelings that can lead to emigration. One can only be impressed by the magnitude and the precision of his introspection.” ―Le Monde des Livres
“Maalouf’s new book, The Disoriented, marks his return to the novel with fanfare. It is a very endearing book.” ―Lire
“A big, exquisite novel about friendship, betrayal, nostalgia, ideals, politics, and the world as it is.” ―Page des Libraires
“Maalouf makes a rare incursion into the twentieth century, and he evokes his native Lebanon in a state of war, a painful subject which until now he had only touched upon.” ―Jeune Afrique
“The great virtue of this beautiful novel is that it concedes a human element to war, that it unravels the Lebanese carpet to undo its knots and loosen its strings.” ―L’Express
“Amin Maalouf has an intact love of Lebanon inside him, as well as ever-enduring suffering and great nostalgia for his youth, of which he has perhaps never spoken of as well as he has in this novel.” ―Page des Libraires
“Full of human warmth and told in an Oriental style, this is a sensitive reflection told through touching portraits.”v ―Notes Bibliographiques
“A great work, which explores the wounds of the exile and the compromises of those who stay.” ―L’Amour des Livres
Praise for Disordered World
“With his consciously nurtured multiple identity, Maalouf is just the sort of interlocutor this period needs. He reaches deep into unmined seams of cultural history, scything elegantly through cliché and conventional models of received wisdom.” ―Financial Times
“Should be prescribed reading in the Foreign Office and on the foreign desk of newspapers and the BBC.” ―The Spectator, Books of the Year
“Stimulating and provocative.” ―Sunday Times
“Maalouf is perfectly placed and wonderfully qualified to shed light on the pervasive sense that there is a cataclysmic battle in progress between civilisations and systems of belief. Disordered World is full of insight.” ―The Observer
Praise for Leo Africanus
“Leo Africanus is a beautiful book of tales about people who are forced to accept choices made for them by someone else―it relates, poetically at times and often imaginatively, the story of those who did not make it to the New World.” ―The New York Times
“Utterly fascinating.” ―BBC World Service
“A celebration of the romance and power of the Arab world, its ideals and achievements.” ―Daily Telegraph
“Maalouf’s fiction offers both a model for the future and a caution, a way towards cultural understanding and an appalling measure of the consequences of failure. His is a voice which Europe cannot afford to ignore.” ―The Guardian
Praise for The Garden of Light
“A fine meditative historical novel from the internationally acclaimed Lebanese author.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Maalouf’s Mani has the ring of life―a sad, glowing book.” ―The Washington Post
“Has the feel of a 1950s Hollywood epic, in which men gesture boldly and deliver words that deserve to be immediately carved in stone.” ―The New York Times Book Review
Praise for In the Name of Identity
“Speaks from the depth of a powerful intellect.” ―The Times (London)
“His observation of human nature in all its facets is wonderfully accurate.” ―Sunday Telegraph
“This book sets out quite simply what is required of civilization in the third millennium.” ―Le Monde
Praise for The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
“The Crusades Through Arab Eyes may be warmly recommended to lay-readers and students alike.” ―The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“A useful and important analysis adding much to existing western histories.” ―London Review of Books
“A wide readership should enjoy this vivid narrative of stirring events.” ―The Bookseller
Praise for Origins: A Memoir
“Maalouf holds to his elliptical narrative with spirit and finesse. The result is both exquisitely tempered and rudely compelling.” ―Independent
“Maalouf has a novelist’s ear for language and an historian’s eye for detail: they have combined to create a masterpiece.” ―Tablet
“Origins is a family saga more diverse and intriguing than most―its stories illustrate the author’s journey of self-discovery.” ―Books Quarterly
“A terrific evocation of the mind-set of a genuinely interesting family, and the times and nations through which they traveled.” ―The Fiction Desk
Praise for The Rock of Tanios
“This is as colorful as a fairy tale, and brilliantly translated from the French.” ―The Times
“Told with the simplicity of fable but set on the cusp of the modern world, this is a wonderful tale.” ―The Independent
“This is a beautifully crafted story detailing the intricacies of the folklores and superstitions which dominated nineteenth-century Oriental village life.” ―The Observer