Amani Jebali, "Exile in Ameen Rihani‘s The Book of Khalid", Université de Nantes, July 2017.
In this research, I intended to focus on Ethnic American literature. Among the Hispanic-American, African-American, or Jewish-American communities, there is also one that thrived into the American society and produced its own exceptional literary creations. Indeed, I am taking into consideration the Arab-American populace as one of the important components of the American cosmopolitan society. Arab-Americans travelled from the Levant to the United States in search for peace and in order to escape all of the religious and political persecutions that ravaged the Arab world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries under the disgraceful violations of tyrannical powers. Crossing seas, abandoning families and leaving behind a life and a home was not an option nor a choice for these newcomers. They saw in the United States a place where their troubles would come to an end, and where their self-respect can be restored through work. Arab- American settlers brought to life their artistic fervour, their music, and their literature. The latter first started to thrive in the early Twentieth Century. It created a captivating mixture between the American and Arab cultures. In fact, each ethnic community has its memories, and still survives thanks to its original heritage; and each category still breathes in the remnants of its initial homeland. That is why I chose to introduce and understand one of the major Arab-American literary productions, whether in volume, form, or theme. Thus, in this thesis, my focal point will be The Book of Khalid, by Lebanese-American writer Ameen Rihani, who belongs to the first wave of Arab-American immigrants –started in 1880 and ended in 1924. This book was first published in New York in 1911 and was initially received by an American readership. Although it examined both Arab and American concerns through its archaic English embroidered by some terms in the Arabic language reflecting Arab concerns, it mostly handled the journey of a certain Lebanese Khalid, who travels to America, and then comes back to Greater Syria in a futile attempt to connect his Levant to his New York, and to link the skyscrapers to the Cedars. The book‘s structure is quite intricate and unique. Indeed, it is divided into three books: To Man, to Nature, and to God. It is also introduced as a lost manuscript in a library in Cairo by the narrator. The reader is told that an Editor weaved its lost pieces to make a coherent story. Within the Book of Khalid, a testimony from his long-time friend Shakib entitled the Histoire Intime is included to bolster the events in Khalid‘s life. Finally, the Editor of the book—to reinforce his criticism-- does not hesitate to give his own personal opinion about Khalid‘s experiences and different adventures. Rihani‘s Khalid is also characterized by humour and satire. It is also highly poetical and fraught with references to poets, philosophers, and historical places. Thus, this research will analyze the physical and mental exile of the protagonist along with its political and religious manifestations, essentially on the intellectual level. Exile was distinctly destructive and emotionally deteriorating, especially for Khalid, who incarnated Rihani‘s own image of a writer and philosopher who relentlessly fought to enlighten the two peoples and pave for them away for fruitful communication rather than for a clash. Thus, Rihani, in this book, created Khalid to explain his vision of a world where perpetual exile is the fate of a Lebanese-American, unless the ―West‖ and the ―East‖ are fused together in an attempt at destroying invisible barriers and at building a universal home where humanity is each person‘s motto.