A work of extraordinary beauty and insight. A moving consideration of the tragedies of one man and an evocation of the broader human condition. Read this work to be deeply moved, to feel empathy, and hence to be more human. The best new work I’ve read in years.
One of the best in really good literature that I have read in a long time. The writing is superb and so well done. it is a somewhat complicated story being fragmented from one place in time to another, but if read slowly and deliberately easy to decipher. Feeling for this man who has lost his two sons and all the security in his life, written in beautiful prose, is a wonderful novel. The poetry and flow of the novel, as long as it is, is pure joy to read. Tariq is such a sensitive man who seems to find such tragedy in his life with little joy, it pulls at your heart strings all along the way. I would recommend the book to most anyone that loves a deep, touching read.
Salah El Moncef’s The Offering is unlike any other book I have read. It is so many things all in one—heart-wrenching, captivating, a love story, a mystery. The story is told first person through the main character, Tariq Abbassi—a Tunisian man who leaves his country for France with his wife and kids. Without spoiling the book, Tariq is a man who has suffered many tragedies in his life from his wife leaving with his kids, to his kids being murdered and experiencing a traumatic brain injury, Tariq desperately tries to piece together his life. What makes the story so fascinating is that the story is told by way of his own personal journal/diary after he commits suicide. Tariq is a poet, so his descriptions are phenomenal (which means Salah is an excellent writer) and captivating. His words are so evocative that you feel like you are right there with Tariq going through this self-discovery journey with him. I love how Tariq is trying to sort out the events of his life the same way the reader is—wanting to know all the details that lead him to ultimately commit suicide. My only gripe would be the book does jump back and forth between different events and time periods, however, if you pay close attention it all comes together beautifully in the end. This book is well worth the attention and time it takes to read!
Love this book. It is beautifully written. Moncef is able to paint a picture with his words; using subtle detail that gives the reader great insight into the characters and story. I don’t mean LOTR detail where you want less…I mean well-chosen, relevant, deliberate detail. The kind of writing that makes it hard to stop. And then find everything else he’s written and read it too…. This guy is talented.
The Offering is a gorgeously detailed story. It is an in-depth self-examination of a man who has been through so much trauma, and so much beauty in a relatively short span of time. The story is captivating and elegantly pulls the reader in with striking descriptions that make one feel as though they are in the story. The Offering is certainly not a happy story, but it is a beautiful one. It discusses tragedy, happiness, love, culture and relationships. While the narrator is very egocentric, he is also quite relatable. Ultimately, The Offering is a story that keeps the reader engulfed from beginning to end.
I started reading The Offering this afternoon and JUST finished it. I could not put it down. The book is all in different times and in different parts of the country. If you go too fast you could miss something and with this book you do not want to do that. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but pay attention to the introduction of characters. The Offering is a book that had all my emotions playing with me. I will say that in the end I took a deep breath and then told my husband the story. This book 100% saved a cold, rainy day. Please do not pass this book up. There are parts that are slower than others but it is well worth it in the end. I recommend this book to all readers.
I didn’t know what to expect but it was beautifully written. El Moncef describes everything just right, sights, scents and tastes, the scenery, the heat, the cafes, the markets, the white pavements and lush gardens. It is part detective story, and part psychological exploration, with a few good plot twists to provide suspense. The writing, however, is the real star and makes it also a love letter to the cities of modern France. It’s fluid too, so it’s a quick read.
This terrific, clever, beautifully written novel is unique, a blend of many genres and indescribable in any simple terms. Among other things it’s a detective story in which the chief detective is the narrator himself, a man named Tariq—an Arab restaurateur and poet living in France—who committed suicide and left behind the document that constitutes the novel. Along with other types of material it includes a diary Tariq kept while being treated at an institution for trauma victims. He has only vague and scattered memories of a horrific event. Despite a compulsion to avoid painful memories, he haltingly investigates his past, doing so especially via the process of writing. He is compelled to learn the truth about his life and, if he can, the nature of his own identity. Some of his memories involve vivid, often beautiful evocations of Paris, Bordeaux, Brittany, and Tunis, places where Tariq had experienced both love and loss. Strange and mysterious from the first, The Offering becomes more so when in bits and pieces Tariq recalls an incident of ritualistic human sacrifice, his interactions with a detective who investigated it, and the possible involvement of both a friend and a lover. But how reliable are of Tariq’s recollections, and if not, what is the truth? By the end of the novel enough evidence accumulates to indicate the answer—perhaps. I’ve just scratched the surface of this complex, deeply felt, and fully realized novel.
“A few days from now, on August 30, my sons will be murdered.” This sentence occurs only a few pages into Salah El Moncef’s elegant yet shattering novel The Offering. In pointed and blunt terms, it gestures towards one of the traumas around which the novel’s narrative circles, but it is not the only trauma that the work carries within itself. For this is also a novel – as we learn from the fictional foreword – whose text appears only after its protagonist’s suicide, as if the author were channeling Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, itself a narrative delivered in the aftermath of disaster. The novel tells the story of Tariq Abbassi, who loses his children twice, who lives in Paris but is from Tunisia, who suffers a brain injury and can only hope to restore his sense of connection to both others and himself.
The novel’s style bears the traces of these disasters. It is a novel of fragments, of anachronistic remnants and anticipatory shudders. It is a novel that dramatizes the piecing together of a shattered life (the fictional editor is also a character), as well as a novel that asks its readers to participate in this piecing together. However, it is also a truly compelling read. I honestly had a hard time putting it down, in part because of my desire to know the details of Tariq’s life, to make sense of the traumas he suffers, in part because of the sonorous rhythms of El Moncef’s prose (if one can call it prose – it verges on being poetry). The novel can be read equally as a meditation on the impossibility of memory in the face of trauma and as a consideration of life in the diaspora. I recommend it for anyone interested in literature that is simultaneously experimental and pleasurable, artistic and entertaining.
When poetry meets a fascinating story… Salah El Moncef’s novel can be read in 2 days as the story is captivating, keeps you awake, and makes you want to keep turning the page until the end. But at the same time, it is not a novel to be read quickly, the writing is smooth and rhythmed like poetry, the words seem to dance and they express with subtlety and intelligence the narrator’s emotions, sometimes brutaly, sometimes softly, sometimes passionately, but always incredibly acurately.
I used to hate Paris, and this novel actually made me want to go back there, the descriptions of sceneries, buildings, parks, are amazing, it feels like travelling. I even could smell the flowers in the parks, the food of Tunisia, and much more as I was reading.
That is the kind of novel you talk about to your friends, the one you want your family to read, but you do not want to give them your copy, you want to keep it close . A novel you get emotionally attached to, as the story talks to the human instinct, to the greatest fears of our species, and our greatest hopes as well. I recommand it to everybody who has a taste for beautifully written pieces that talk to the soul.
This is a beautifully written story about life in a global society where displacement and precarity have become the rule for everyone. Poetic, uncompromising, heart-breaking, it points in a direction fiction has to go, if it wants to engage with this new world on its shifting grounds, from within the situations, troubles, and contradictions it presents and that we have no choice but to live. Salah el-Moncef has written a truly relevant book for the 21st century, cutting into the flesh of our times with deep intelligence and compassion. A must read!
What a journey! A mystery novel, a love story, a heartbreaking analysis of dead or dying relationships, a family tragedy… all the twists and turns, the joys, the fears, the pains and hopes and longings of human existence, all the depth of human soul. And if that depth of story was not art enough, the writing itself could find its rightful place as the very definition of poetry : incredibly evocative and mesmerizing in its beauty, yet direct, sharp and gripping. El Moncef has managed a literary tour de force, creating characters that are both familiar as well as intriguing, both relatable on a personal level as well as embodying everything any of us could ever hope or fear we’ll ever feel and experience (maybe let’s just hope we don’t).
As I leave this garden, I can only end by agreeing with the curator of that wonderful estate: “Unfortunately, not being a writer myself, I will never find the words to express why and how the reproduction of that mosaic—the sad and somber tale narrated in these pages—has become the center of my existence.” But it has. And I envy you, reader, for this journey is now all yours to make.
Reading El Moncef’s novel was like one of those bizarre dreams where you wake up and spend the rest of the day wondering how much of it was real. A bit like a David Cronenberg film. There are at least three different narrative levels here, and although it’s not written like a detective story, the effect is the same. I wasn’t sure how much I could trust what the protagonist was saying, who’s pathetic and desperate as well as “sympathique”. He’s so self-pitying that you have to wonder what he’s trying to hide. And his relationships with women are weird, there’s no other word for it. One liaison in particular with a former girlfriend who he reconnects with on holiday had me laughing and cringing by turns. El Moncef’s writing is superb, the way he describes Paris and especially Tunisia brings these far off places to life. Fascinating and moving without being “exotic”. It proves there are other sides to the world that owe their resonances to the strange power of human emotions, rather than to ethnicity. This novel is a great voyeuristic trip into those emotions.