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Modern-day Beirut is seen through the eyes of a failed writer, the eponymous Mister N. He has left his comfortable apartment and checked himself into a hotel--he thinks. Certainly, they take good care of him there. Meanwhile, on the streets below, a grim pageant: there is desperate poverty, the ever-present threat of violence, and masses of Syrian refugees planning to reach Europe via a dangerous sea passage.
How is anyone supposed to write deathless prose in such circumstances? Let alone an old man like Mister N., whose life and memories have become scattered, whose family regards him as an embarrassment, and whose next-door neighbours torment him with their noise, dinner invitations, and inconvenient suicides. Comical and tragic by turns, his misadventures climax in the arrival in what Mister N. had supposed to be his "real life" of a character from one of his early novels--a vicious militiaman and torturer. Now, does the old writer need to arm himself . . . or just seek psychiatric help?