Image: Lamia Ziadé, Detail from "Fairuz in My Grandfather’s Shop."
This month we’re off to Beirut and beyond in the company of six Lebanese writers. Their fiction, memoir, and graphics reflect the sweeping array of cultures, politics, wars, exiles, religions, and languages that swirl within this kaleidoscopic literature. Hoda Barakat conducts a postal roundelay, while Jabbour Douaihy eases a Christian man with a Muslim name through an armed checkpoint. Charles Chahwan—"Lebanon’s answer to Charles Bukowski,” debuting in English—finds himself on a familiar street turned deadly, and Sabyl Ghoussoub's expat filmmaker gets an unexpected review. And in illustrated pieces, Lena Merhej charts the emotional extremes of a disintegrating affair, and Lamia Ziadé finds herself with a front-row seat for Lebanon’s most famous singer. We thank our guest editors, Olivia Snaije and Mitchell Albert.
This month’s feature presents three Punjabi poets on aging, selected and introduced by Sonnet Mondal.
Through a Glass Brightly: Languages, Politics, and Contemporary Literature from Lebanon
Lebanese literature preceding the civil war represented "a friendly place, a land of milk and honey; the Mediterranean …” The war “swept all that away.”
The Night Post
I write my letter with no idea where to send it.
He pleaded for him to believe him.
Fairuz in My Grandfather’s Shop
Fairuz was only to sing on stage.
A shattering pain, or intense euphoria
The Jewish Nose
I looked like a Jew, an Islamist, a Portuguese, an Iranian, an idiot.
“You need to take your clothes off,” she continued.
A Quietly Radical Tale of the Rise and Fall of Communist Russia in Eugene Vodolazkin’s “The Aviator”
Reviewed by Sam George Jackson
Born in 1900, Innokenty Petrovich Platonov wakes up one day to find himself in a modern hospital, in 1999, with the body of a young man and memories that barely reach the 1930s. As he strives to figure out what happened to him, personal memories and historical investigation combine to create a harrowing narrative of Russia's history in the XX century, from the makings of revolution to the collapse of the Communist regime. "The Aviator" is a quietly radical novel, which challenges contemporary official narratives about Russia's past.
Reviewed by Emily Roese
A French bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, "Small Country" holds a mirror to the childhood of the Burundi-born rapper and author Gaël Faye, who emigrated to France with his French father, Rwandan mother, and younger sister in the 1990s. They were a Tusi family living in Burundi and decided to flee when they realized that the conflicts in war-torn Rwanda threatened their lives. In his perceptiveness, developing love of literature and nostalgia for a pre-war idyll, Gaby calls as much to Faye’s history as it does to the artistic career he would follow.