Lebanon Literature
Asia,  Middle East

Lebanon Literature

The bloody civil war that upset the Lebanon between 1975 and 1989 profoundly marked several generations of authors who were concerned, in the post-war period, to make sense, through writing, of the destructive violence that had upset lives, communities, cities and the nature of the country itself. In the aftermath of the end of the civil war, an artistic and literary avant-garde emerged that did not suffer setbacks even following other events that then shook the country, from the assassination of Rafīq al-Ḥarīrī in 2005 and the consequent revolution of the Cedars, to the 2006 Israeli military offensive.

The commitment of Lebanese intellectuals in the struggle for the end of the protection of Syria – of which they argue the need for a democratization process – and for the Palestinian cause saw Samīr Qaṣīr (Samir Kassir, 1960-2005) involved in the front line. Historian and activist, a prominent figure of the nation’s intelligentsia, Qaṣīr is the author of fundamental texts for the cultural history of Lebanon, such as Histoire de Beyrouth (2003; trad. It. Beirut. Storia di una città, 2009) and Considérations sur le malheur arabe (2004; trans. it. Arab unhappiness, 2006). After receiving threats from Lebanese and Syrian secret services, he was murdered with a car bomb in Beirut, but the perpetrators of his assassination have not been identified.

According to Plus-Size-Tips, Lebanese poetry appears marked by personalities such as those of Sa῾īd ῾Aql (1911-2014), supporter of the Phoenician nature of Lebanon; by Unsī al-Ḥāǧ (1937-2014), protagonist of the avant-garde of the Sixties; or of Etel Adnan (b. 1925), of a Syrian Muslim father and a Greek Christian mother, in whose verses the different souls of Lebanon and the cultures of the countries of adoption, France and the United States, coexist. ῾Abbās Bayḍūn (b. 1945) is, on the other hand, the leading figure of his generation and one of the major Arab authors of so-called prose poetry. His collections, al-Mawt ya᾽ḫuḏ maqāsāta nā (2008, Death takes us to measure) and Biṭāqah li-šaḫṣayn (2009, A document for two people), and his autobiography, Marāyā Frānkištāyn (2011, The mirrors of Frankenstein) are characterized by a strong political and social commitment. Other important voices of Lebanese poetry are Ṭalāl Ḥaydar (b.1937), Wadī῾ Sa῾ādah (b.1948) and Bassām Ḥaǧǧār (1955-2009).

The novel is characterized by a marked experimentation, which revolves around some key themes: the war and the traumas deriving from it, the causes and effects of confessionalism and the identity conflicts that have devastated the country, memory, exile, Lebanese identity. Pioneers of this movement are Ilyās Ḫūrī (Elias Khoury, v.) And, with him, a large number of authors who through their novels have filled the void of conscience and that sort of collective amnesia consequence of the 1991 amnesty that had put a final stone on the conflict. Among these Ḥasan Dāwūd (b.1950), author of Bināyat Mātīld (1999, Matilda’s palace), Mi᾽at wa ṯamānūn ġurūban (2009, 180 sunsets), Ġinā᾽ al-biṭrīq (2011, The Penguin Song). The irony is the tone that distinguishes the novels of Rashid al-Daif (n. 1945), who became famous with Azizi al-Sayyid Kawabata (1995; trans. It. My dear Kawabata, 1998) and subsequent Taṣṭafil Meryl Streep (2001; trans. It. And who cares about Meryl Streep, 2003), Ūkay ma῾a al-salāmah (2005, Ok goodbye), Tablīṭ al-baḥr (2011, The pavement of the sea). Other important novelists are Ǧabbūr al-Duwayhī (b. 1949), author of Maṭar ḥazīrān (2006; transl. It. Rain of June, 2010) and Šarīd almanāzil (2010; trans. It. Saint George looked elsewhere, 2012); while Rabī῾ Ǧābir (b. 1972), author of a trilogy on Beirut (2007) and of the novel Amīrikā (2009; trad. it. Come fili di seta, 2011), received the IPAF (International Prize for Arabic Fiction) for the novel Drūz Balġrād (2010, The Druse of Belgrade).

The novel has seen the emergence of many writers who have addressed issues such as family conflicts, gender relations, sexuality, social emancipation in their texts. These Hanan al-Sayh (n. 1945), whose most recent work is Adara Londonistan (2014, The virgins of Londonistan), Huda Barakat (b. 1952), Alawiyyah Subh (n. 1955), Najwa Barakat (n. 1966), Imān Ḥumaydān Yūnis (b. 1956).

The Lebanese fiction has also been enriched by writers who do not write in Arabic, such as the French speakers Charif Majdalani (b.1960) and Hyam Yared (b.1975), the American-Lebanese Rabih Alameddine (b.1959), the Canadian- Lebanese Rawi Hage (b.1964).

Lebanon Literature