Is it really important to cling to our lost identities?
A terrorist attack in Jerusalem puts Eitan, a young Israeli-German genetic researcher, in a coma, while his girlfriend Wahida, a Moroccan graduate student, is left to uncover his family secret that brought them to Israel in the first place. Since Eitan’s parents erupted at a Passover meal when they realized Wahida was not Jewish, he has harboured a suspicion about his heritage that, if true, could change everything.
In this sweeping new drama from the prolific Wajdi Mouawad, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hits close to home as a straitlaced family is forced to confront everything they know about their identities.
About the authors
Wajdi Mouawad was born in Lebanon in 1968. Mouawad fled the war-torn country with his family; they lived in Paris for a few years, then settled in Montreal. In 1991, shortly after graduating from the National Theatre School, he embarked on a career as an actor, writer, director, and producer. In all his work, from his own playsâÂ?Â?a dozen so far, including JournÃ©e de noces chez les Cromagnons (Wedding Day at the Cro-MagnonsâÂ?Â?), Littoral (Tideline), and Incendies (Scorched- which served as the basis for the Academy Award nominated film Incendies)âÂ?Â?Wajdi Mouawad is guided by the central notion that âÂ?Â?all art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.âÂ?Â From 2000âÂ?Â?2004 he was the artistic director of MontrealâÂ?Â?s ThÃ©Ã¢tre de QuatâÂ?Â?Sous; in 2005 he founded two companies specializing in the development of new work: AbÃ© carrÃ© cÃ© carrÃ© in Canada (with Emmanuel Schwartz), and Au carrÃ© de lâÂ?Â?hypotÃ©nuse in France. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honours for his writing and directing, including the 2000 Governor GeneralâÂ?Â?s Literary Award for Drama (Littoral), the 2002 Chevalier de lâÂ?Â?Ordre National des Arts et des Lettres (France) and the 2004 Prix de la Francophonie. He is currently Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre French Theatre.
Linda Gaboriau is a dramaturge and literary translator renowned for her translations of some 100 plays and novels by some of Quebec's most prominent writers, including many of the Quebec plays best known to English Canadian audiences. After studying French language and literature at McGill University, she freelanced as a journalist for the CBC and the Montreal Gazette. She has worked in Canadian and Québécois theatre and is founding director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, where she directed numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. Her third translation of a Wajdi Mouawad play Forests in 2010 won her a second Governor General's Literary Award for translation. Originally from Boston, Linda Gaboriau has been based in Montreal since 1963. David Homel is a writer, journalist, filmmaker, and translator. He is the author of five previous novels, including The Speaking Cure, which won the J.I. Segal Award of the Jewish Public Library, and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Best Fiction from the Quebec Writer's Federation. He has also written two children's books, including Travels with my Family, which was co-authored with his wife, Canadian children's author Marie-Louise Gay. He has translated several French works, receiving two Governor General's Literary Awards for translation. Homel was born and raised in Chicago and currently resides in Montreal.Maureen Labonté is a dramaturge, translator and teacher. She has also coordinated a number of play-development programs in theatres and playwrights' centres across the country. In 2006, she was named head of program for the Banff playRites Colony at The Banff Centre. She was dramaturge at the Colony from 2003-2005. She was also literary manager in charge of play development at the Shaw Festival from 2002-2004. Previous to that, she worked at the National Theatre School of Canada (NTSC), first developing and running a pilot directing program and then coordinating the playwrighting program and playwrights' residency. She still teaches at NTSC. She has translated more than thirty Quebec plays into English. Recent translations include: The Bookshop by Marie-Josée Bastien, Everybody's WELLES pour tous by Patrice Dubois, Martin Labreque and The Tailor's Will by Michel Ouellette, Wigwam by Jean-Frédéric Messier and Bienvenue à (une ville dont vous êtes le touriste) by Olivier Choinière.
- Winner, Governor General's Literary Award
Excerpt: Birds of a Kind (by (author) Wajdi Mouawad; translated by Linda Gaboriau)
2. The first night after the massacre
A hospital room. A nurse enters.
Nurse. Sorry. Visiting hours are over. You have to leave now. Until seven tomorrow morning.
Wahida. I’m sorry, I don’t speak Hebrew.
Nurse. It’s eight o’clock. You have to leave now. Until seven tomorrow morning.
Wahida. Will you call me if he wakes up in the night?
Nurse. Do we know where to reach you?
Wahida. I lost my phone. You can reach me on Eitan’s phone or at the Paradise Hotel. Lions’ Gate.
Nurse. You should move closer to the hospital. The army might close off the Muslim Quarter.
Wahida. Can I stay here?
Nurse. It’s not allowed.
Wahida. Just tonight.
Nurse. I’m sorry. The entire floor is occupied by victims of the attack. Many of them will die tonight. The first night after an attack separates the living from the dead. You couldn’t handle it. No one can. So we limit the number of people present. Otherwise, we’d fall apart, too. The days ahead are going to be difficult. You have to get some rest. You have to sleep.
Wahida. I can’t sleep. I replay the scene in my head as soon as I’m alone. I close my eyes and it all comes back, the bridge, the people, the heat, the sun, customs, the body search, an endless loop of images until the explosion.
Nurse. Were you together?
Wahida. They had separated us. That’s what saved me and probably saved him too. If they hadn’t decided to search me, both of us probably would have died on that bus to Jordan. But when the truck attacked, I was still being interrogated. Eitan had told me, I’ll wait for you, and we were separated. I didn’t see it happen. I was with a woman soldier who was body-?searching me when the explosion took place. A horrendous vomiting followed by the smell of burnt flesh. I had never seen so many dead bodies.
Nurse. Are you alone in Israel?
Nurse. Where does his family live?
Nurse. Have theybeen notified?
Wahida. I’m not the right person to contact them.
Nurse. They have to be notified. Where are you from?
Wahida. New York.
Nurse. Contact his parents. That’s the first thing to do. You can’t face this alone. What’s your name?
Nurse. My name is Sigal. Here.
She hands wahida a tablet.
This will help you sleep. If Eitan wakes up, I’ll call you. I promise.
The nurse exits.