The Storyteller


*Shortlisted for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize (UK)*

The enthralling search for a missing father

Samir leaves the safety and comfort of his family’s adopted home in Germany for volatile Beirut in an attempt to find his missing father. His only clues are an old photo and the bedtime stories his father used to tell him. The Storyteller follows Samir’s search for Brahim, the father whose heart was always yearning for his homeland, Lebanon. In this moving and gripping novel about family secrets, love, and friendship, Pierre Jarawan does for Lebanon what Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan. He pulls away the curtain of grim facts and figures to reveal the intimate story of an exiled family torn apart by civil war and guilt. In this rich and skillful account, Jarawan proves that he too is a masterful storyteller.

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This book was published with the support of the Goethe-Institut






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Publication date

April 2, 2019




Pierre Jarawan

Pierre Jarawan was born in 1985 to a Lebanese father and a German mother and moved to Germany with his family… Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. The Storyteller is set in both Germany and Lebanon: how do these two landscapes compare (and contrast) within the novel?
  2. Compare the reactions of Samir and his mother to losing their father/husband. Do they express their grief in similar ways?
  3. How do each of the characters change throughout the course of the book?
  4. Does their way of grieving seem healthy? Is it something you have any control over?
  5. Samir goes to Lebanon to look for his father. Do you think this was a good idea? Why? Why not? Should he have gone earlier? Later?
  6. Other than his father, what did he hope to find there?
  7. Do you think Samir’s father was right to return to Lebanon? Why/why not?
  8. Who are the people that helped Samir in his journey? In what ways did they help?
  9. What defines the terms “family” and “home”?
  10. The history of Lebanon is a central part of the book: What do you know about the current affairs of this region? And, from the events related within the book itself, what do you think the main problems are in Lebanon, and can you see any solutions? How does this compare to your country?
  11. In what ways could Germany and Lebanon be said to be the same?
  12. How do you think Samir feels upon his return to Germany? What do you think the future holds for him?
  13. What can you say about Samir’s mother’s relationship to the other members of her family? Do you think she enjoyed living in Germany? Do you think she also longed to return to Lebanon? Why?
  14. In what ways were Yasmin’s and Samir’s experiences in Germany the same? In what ways do they differ?
  15. Following the death of their mother, Samir’s sister was taken to a foster family while Samir was left with friend of the family, Hakim. Was this the best thing for Samir? What else could have been done in this situation?
  16. This book also testifies to the power of storytelling, and to an oral storytelling tradition. What does Jarawan have to say about the importance of stories? What are stories able to do for us?
  17. Samir’s father turns his friends into animals for the basis of the bedtime stories he tells to his son: Why does he do this? How do you think it helps him?

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Lebanon for the Dreamers


Praise for The Storyteller

“Jarawan’s style is pacy and unadorned, with a narrative design that urges you on.” —The Observer

“The characters search for a sort of Holy Grail, a mystical solution to complicated problems, and they don’t find it.” —Asymptote

“A literary debut of astounding maturity, refinement, and narrative power” —Literatur Abendzeitung

“Jarawan’s narrative is captivating, fast-paced, and true to life—a fascinating exploration of the question of what it means to be influenced by several cultures at the same time” —Frankfurter Neue Presse

“His masterful debut successfully interweaves historical events with a suspense-filled investigation of one family’s fate in a novel that deeply moves its readers.” —New Books in German

“In a sweeping style reminiscent of oriental storytelling, Jarawan tells of escape, migration, and a family torn between two cultures. His debut succeeds in bringing foreign culture into focus and awakens in the reader a fascination with the The Storyteller.” —Kulturtipp

“With this beautiful family tale, Jarawan opens your eyes to Lebanon.” —MANDA HEDDEMA, Boekhandel De Koperen Tuin

“Hands-down one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.” —From Cover to Cover

“The characters search for a sort of Holy Grail, a mystical solution to complicated problems, and they don’t find it.” —Asymptote Journal

“Deserves to be huge.” —Ignoring Life Blog

“Expansive and engaging.” —David’s Book World

“Jarawan has just the right touch on some of the finer details, as when he writes in Samir’s voice that he remembers the date Nov. 22, 2000, not because it was when he lost his virginity but ‘because that’s the day Mother died.’ His depiction of a Lebanon once torn apart by civil war is also well-nuanced…” Kirkus Reviews

The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan is one of those rare books that takes you on both the internal and external journeys of a character. We not only see how far Samir travels emotionally, but follow him on the geographic journey required for him to grow up and accept himself. A brilliant work for our times.”―Qantara

“A literary debut of astounding maturity, refinement, and narrative power.”―Literatur Abendzeitung

“Jarawan’s narrative is captivating, fast-paced, and true to life―a fascinating exploration of the question of what it means to be influenced by several cultures at the same time.”―Frankfurter Neue Presse

The Storyteller is a moving and nuanced account of a young man’s search for identity.” ―The Bend Bulletin

“His masterful debut successfully interweaves historical events and a suspense-filled investigation of one family’s fate into a novel that deeply moves its readers.”―New Books in German

“In a sweeping style reminiscent of oriental storytelling, Jarawan tells of escape, migration, and a family torn between two cultures. His debut succeeds in bringing foreign culture into focus and awakens in the reader a fascination with the The Storyteller.”―Kulturtipp

“The story of an escape, of a family, and of the Far East: how the fate of one family is inevitably linked with Lebanon’s history. An enthralling novel which couldn’t be more timely.”―Rhein-Zeitung

“Pierre Jarawan has worked Lebanon’s complicated history brilliantly into his debut novel.” ―TAZ

“This new literary voice is particularly melodious and memorable. The Storyteller is an elegantly and unobtrusively narrated novel that shows us what is behind and beyond the narrow stuffy rooms that we call ‘our world,’ our Europe, our West. With this novel, the doors open to a thousand other beautiful incomprehensible worlds.”―Alexander Solloch, NDR Culture New Books

“This book is a masterwork―a debut of great class.”―Booklover & Dreamcatcher

“A moving and wonderfully constructed story, full of beautiful images―Jarawan teaches us about both history and the future, without ever becoming didactic.” ―Tzum

“An exciting family mystery, focusing on both historical and current political situations; a testimony to the way migrants are torn between their old homeland and their new.” ―Ruhr Nachrichten

“A wonderful and authentic way of storytelling.”―Boekenkrant

“A beautiful book full of fascinating storytelling and poetic language, that you devour without stopping for breath. If you start reading this book, you’ll want to keep reading it, rereading it. A masterful and particularly fascinating debut for such a young writer―one we can hopefully expect a lot more from.”―Leeskost

“Jarawan has produced a fairy tale that could be straight out of One Thousand and One Nights. From the very beginning, you float away on the story as if on a flying carpet.”―NRC

“An engaging novel.”―Mappa Libri

“A story worth telling.” ―De Volkskrant



“Pierre Jarawan is a true storyteller whose vivid writing is able to evoke urgency and empathy where factual reporting can’t. Khaled Hosseini gave us an understanding of Afghanistan. In the same way, Jarawan changes our perception of the conflict in the Middle East.” ―Juliane Ziskoven, Mayersche Buchhandlung, Germany

“Extremely absorbing! Wonderful!” ―Lilian Dionysia, Saraiva, Brazil

”In The Storyteller, German-Lebanese author Pierre Jarawan has created a work of art that explores the importance of family and nationality in the creation of an identity. Jarawan fills the book with stories of the Lebanese civil war, teaching the history of the country and the event without making it feel like you are learning anything or reading a history book. A definite must read.” ―Portia Turner, The Book Cellar, USA

The Storyteller is truly a work of art, one of those masterful books that from the moment you start reading it you began to live two lives, moving back and forth between your own reality and Samir’s story. I loved every page of this book.” ―Shonee Mirchandani, Bookazine, Hong Kong

“Reading those descriptive words, I felt myself in Lebanon. A true depiction of culture and identity. A story about history, family and the secrets that bind them. The Storyteller is a beautifully written novel that you do not want to miss.” ―Tamar Kassabian, Virgin Megastore, Egypt

“A lovely -and perfectly titled book – the storytelling is WONDERFUL! The Storyteller follows a son in search of his father and explores cultural identity and displacement but is ultimately a story about family secrets, love and friendship.” ―Drake The Bookshop, UK

The Storyteller seamlessly integrates history and human reality into a beautiful fictional narrative. The author takes us on a journey with Samir, a Lebanese boy born a refugee in Germany. Through the immersive stories of his father about the beautiful country of Lebanon, its damaged history and its proud cedar trees Samir is constantly reminded of his roots, and so his cultural identity crisis is alleviated. It accounts for what it feels like for humans living in diaspora to search for love and belonging in both their country of residence and country of origin. Above all, it illustrates a relationship bond that is rarely accounted for – a strong and loving relationship between a father and a son.” ―Khadija Lawal, Virgin Megastore MENA, United Arab Emirates

“A great personal story intertwined with the 1982 Lebanon war. It’s story of love, religion, race and politics. A surprising ending after a fast-paced investigation into one’s root.” ―Frank, Bluefountain, China

“I am most affected by this incredibly vivid language, the subtle urgency. An important book at the right time.” ―Martina Kraus, Ravensbuch, Germany

“As if in a fairy tale you are visiting a foreign country, smelling the cedar trees and learning about Lebanon’s history in this deeply touching story.” ―Ayşen Boylu, Homer Books, Turkey

“This is a book everyone should read, everyone in the world. It’s an important book, a beautiful book, a book that changes the way you look at the world. This book really opens your eyes and your heart for Lebanon and the people who are living there. It’s a book you must read.” ―Manda Heddema, de Koperen Tuin, Netherlands

“Jarawan builds an incredible tension; seduces the reader into wildly speculating about a lost father’s fate, and, in the end, surprises completely. The author creates a wonderful balance between a sensual tale and factual story – he both moved and mesmerized me.”― Jacqueline Masuck, Dussman Das Kulturkaufhaus, Germany

“Jarawan’s adeptness in the storytelling genre mixed with his knowledge of the Lebanese civil war creates a work that is both intensely lyrical and a power reflection on an important piece of recent history. This book has everything you could want: love, loss, mystery, history, and the wisdom gained from an insightful dive into very complex political and religious history.” ―Hannah, Malaprop’s Bookstore, USA

The Storyteller is one of those rare novels that elegantly interweave history, culture, religion, identity and family together in a heartbreaking and fascinating story of a young man’s search for his father in Lebanon. A relevant story so many people can relate to. Pierre Jarawan is a true storyteller!” ―Kristina Hauberg, Politiken, Denmark

“Lyrical prose, characters that claim your empathy, and an intriguing plot prove Pierre Jarawan is a gifted storyteller. A beautifully written saga of a troubled land.” ―Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, USA

“I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a story about family, secrets, the history of a country and the love between fathers and sons.” ―Christoph Hänni, Buchhaus, Switzerland

“A wonderful book; an enchanting family story; a perfect novel. The reader is continuously reminded of the great Rafik Schami.” ―Walter Reimann, Buchhandlung Hirslanden, Switzerland

“What a debut! With this book, Jarawan joins the rank of the very best contemporary authors in Germany.” ―Volker Keidel, Hugendubel Germany

“I just picked up The Storyteller and was greeted by such an evocative first chapter― a father installing a satellite dish, Lebanese food, neighbors ― that now I have to read the whole book. And it does not disappoint!” ―Mary Cotton, Newtonville Books, USA

The Storyteller thrilled me! I joined Samir on an exciting and touching journey, and spent the entire duration of the book in Lebanon.” ―Michaela Maczejka, Buchhandlung Zweymueller, Germany

“Wow. Just wow. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” ―Tanya Mills, The Book Bungalow, USA

“A miraculous book.” ―Jennifer Mertens, Kurt Heymann, Germany

“A powerful, moving, beautiful narrative.”― Anna Eklund, University Bookstore, USA

“Beginnings and endings cycle through Pierre Jarawan’s tightly interlaced story which never tries to separate personal lives from the larger world in which the characters are living. Because they cannot be. It is life. He creates a sense of urgency. The desire to unravel a central mystery seems overwhelming yet there are pockets of space throughout as details of the character’s live unfold and episodes unwind before the road twists and turns once more.” ―Connie Griffin, Bookworks, USA

“A magnificent writer. Very personal, emotional, stirring and outstandingly well-written. A wonderful story of home, family and the search for one’s own roots.” ―Hans Grünthaler, Buchhandlung Schmid, Germany

“What a pleasure and delight it was to read this novel! The reader is fully immersed in the story, completely captivated, enchanted, mesmerized. Jarawan is an exceptionally gifted storyteller.” ―Christian Niedermeier, Thalia Buchhandlung, Germany