July 06, 2011

Analyzing ‘Niko’ by Dimitri Nasrallah

Dimitri Nasrallah is no stranger to civil war.

He was born in Lebanon in 1977 as the country was rife with opposition and discontent, and it was the only environment he knew as a young child. In 1981, his family went into exile, living in Athens, Kuwait and Dubai before immigrating to Canada in 1988.

Currently, Nasrallah lives in Montreal. His first novel - Blackbodyingwas published in 2005. It recounts the exile stories of two Lebanese citizens as they trek to Canada. Both have very different experiences as they attempt to find their places in a new world.

The cover of Blackbodying, published in 2005.

Nasrallah’s most recent novel – Niko – chronicles the life of six-year-old Niko Karram. After his pregnant mother is killed by a car bomb in Lebanon, his father Antoine decides to leave the war torn country. Throughout a twelve-year odyssey that leads them across seven countries, Niko has difficulty growing up and becoming an adult in a society he feels he can’t truly be comfortable in.

Cover art for Nasrallah's most recent novel, Niko.

Overall, Niko is written in a simple yet poignant tone. It mainly tells the story from Niko’s perspective, but occasionally shifts to the thoughts and experiences of other characters. This seems to be a technique used to fill in information that is necessary to advance the story but unknown to the main character. The perspective shifts are slight and gradual, making it easy for the reader to follow one point of view and then another.

The content of the novel is so similar to the life events of Nasrallah that it almost reads like an autobiography at times. Certain scenes – such as Niko’s first days at a new school in Canada – are so compelling that it’s easy to picture a young Nasrallah sitting amongst a diverse group of students who’ve just arrived in a new country for the first time.

We can't wait to meet Mr. Nasrallah., and are sure his reading will be insightful, moving and interesting.

Whether or not the novel is in fact based on Nasrallah’s life is a question that will have to wait to be answered until his appearance at THIN AIR 2011 in September… 

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