Karim Dimechkie, author of the novel Lifted By The Great Nothing, visited Beirut to introduce his debut novel and held book readings around town, including two hosted by Rusted Radishes at the American University of Beirut and Bardo. During his first week in Lebanon, the novel was sold out in all branches of Antoine’s Bookstores, leaving many eager readers regretful of not picking up a copy sooner. Nonetheless, you can still pick it up at Dar Books and Librarie Internationale.
Karim knows how to engage his audience and make them laugh. He piqued his listeners’ interest in the novel, clearly evident with the myriad of questions asked following the readings. But first, everyone was curious about the title. He said that he is particularly interested in titles that “juxtapose believable opposites.” Being lifted represents the idea that there is always an upside to losing what is most important to you in life; something could be gained from loss. In the novel, the experience of grief for the main character is a “vacillation between crippling depression and intense pain, and Max comes out of that experience being the most alive he has ever been, with something positive, something meaningful.”
Lifted By The Great Nothing is a heartwarming and quirky coming-of-age story about a young boy named Max, on a mission to uncover the secret his father kept from him about his country’s and his own past. Throughout the novel, readers are faced with the question of “When is a lie morally acceptable?” – and “Is it ever?” As readers go on an emotional journey with Max, they come to realize that one lie could change a person forever.
How has life changed for you since the publication of Lifted By The Great Nothing?
There was a lot of build up around the idea of publishing a novel, but to be honest, my life is surprisingly similar to how it was before the book. I still sit in my room all day and chip away at my writing, and I still have the standard of living of a grad student.
As an Arab American do you feel a special responsibility to inform the world about your native country?
I never write with an objective in mind, or with the agenda of representing a country or people. Rather, I trust my nose, following story lines in my head that grip me. That said, Lebanon will always be a context that fascinates me, so I suspect I’ll naturally return to this place as a frame for many books to come.
How much of Lifted By The Great Nothing is autobiographical?
Virtually none of it. There are fragments here and there, but for the most part it’s such a Frankenstein of my experiences that it’s unrecognizable. That said, the emotional plot and insights feel like the truest things I’ve ever dreamed up.
What advice would you give for aspiring novelists?
I’m constantly beating the same drum on this one. My advice is to not concentrate on the end result of a project (i.e. imagining your mother’s proud face at your first reading, or what you’ll do with your newly discovered prestige and book advance), but instead, put your life force into the day-to-day, the process, the work itself–– because that’s what keeps us writers going.