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.
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?
“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.” ―Notes Bibliographiques
“A great work, which explores the wounds of the exile and the compromises of those who stay.” ―L’Amour des Livres