“What I know about you:” by Éric Chacour: leaving Cairo to start a new life in Montreal
MISE & Agrave; DAY
A moving story of an encounter that changes everything, of an exile, an absence and a reconciliation, What I know about you, the first novel by Éric Chacour, recounts with great sensitivity a torn clan and a society in full transformation. It tells the story of a young doctor born in Cairo, whose pre-determined life is completely turned upside down by an encounter that creates a veritable tsunami in his life.
In Cairo, in the 1980s, Tarek follows the path that has been laid out in advance for him. A young doctor who doesn't have much time to ask himself questions, he runs between his practice in the prestigious practice inherited from his doctor father, his dispensary and his new life as a married man.
A day, he meets Ali, a free young man from a disadvantaged background. The bonds are woven between them until amorous passion and a drama which will jeopardize his marriage, his career and will leave him no other choice than exile.
Leaving his heart and his roots on the banks of the Nile, Tarek chose Quebec as a land of welcome. In the heart of Montreal winters, he wanders, he remembers. And meanwhile, in Cairo, someone is trying to mend the shreds of his story.
The Egypt of his parents
Éric Chacour recounts with a powerful, luminous prose, charged with emotion, the moving journey of this man who one day watches his life go into a spin.
In an interview, he reveals that he has carried this story for a long time. “I wanted to write this story and above all to put it in a context which was the one I was discovering a little – 20th century Egypt through the stories of my parents and their friends.”
His father was born in Cairo and his mother in Alexandria. “They met in Montreal and I was born in Montreal, where I grew up, then I left quite young for France for my father's job. I spent a large part of my life in France before returning five years ago.
The Egypt he recounts in the novel is really the Egypt of his parents. “My parents were not necessarily representative of the typical Egyptian because they belonged to the Syro-Lebanese community, therefore Levantines. People whose origins came from Syria, Lebanon, who were more Christians, more Western in spirit.”
It is a bit about this Egypt that he wanted to tell. “The one that was served to me in all the stories I heard in my childhood, and which is very different from the Egypt that I find every time I go there. I've been to Egypt fifteen times and the Egypt that I describe in the novel, it hardly exists any more.”
What I know about you doesn't is not a historical novel or a social analysis, he adds. “It is above all the story of human situations that are universal. A love we never expected. An uprooting when you leave your country. The absence of a family member.”