“I should just let this entire region spiral off”

Intimate reflections from a pair of father-and-son tyrants

Dimitri Nasrallah’s The Bleeds is a doubly hybrid novel: both a literary-slash-international-thriller and a bricolage of blog entries, newspaper clippings, and traditional first-person narration recounting the story of family dictatorship.

The setting, which appears only in the running header of the novel’s inserted newspaper articles until it is eventually revealed as a republic “along the Middle Eastern-Transcaucasian fault line” near the end of the narrative, is a reality-rooted invention. Nasrallah, a Beirut-born, Montreal-based writer, and author of the CBC Canada Reads-nominated novel Niko, is clear about the fictionality of the nation in The Bleeds. He certainly doesn’t mean to have the reader make guesses as to which real country his nation could be, as he renders ongoing strife between the region’s two fictional ethnic groups in careful detail. The country here parallels many of the...