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Turning the Kaleidoscope: Writing from Lebanon

July 2018

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.

Through a Glass Brightly: Languages, Politics, and Contemporary Literature from Lebanon
By Olivia Snaije & Mitchell Albert
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
By Hoda Barakat
I write my letter with no idea where to send it.
Translated from Arabic by Robin Moger
By Jabbour Douaihy
He pleaded for him to believe him.
Translated from Arabic by Paula Haydar
Fairuz in My Grandfather’s Shop
By Lamia Ziadé
Fairuz was only to sing on stage.
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
The Jewish Nose
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
I looked like a Jew, an Islamist, a Portuguese, an Iranian, an idiot.
Translated from French by Mitchell Albert & Olivia Snaije
After Midnight
By Charles Chahwan
“You need to take your clothes off,” she continued.
Translated from Arabic by Suneela Mubayi