Friday, March 18, 2011

Read Your Way Around the World - Lebanon

Read Your Way Around the World invites you to Lebanon. Lebanon has an ancient and diverse population dating back more than 7000 years to the Phoenicians. Lebanese culture is sophisticated and literate producing such world famous authors as Khalil Gibran, Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf and Hanan al-Shaykh. Lebanon has seen much conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries and this has influenced fiction coming out of (and about) this country.

Pre-civil war Beirut was known as the "Paris of the Mediterranean". A survivor of the Armenian genocide, Vahe, is haunted by memories and indulges in a dangerous fantasy life.Vahe's life collapses around him as Beirut itself begins its descent into chaos in The Daydreaming Boy by Micheline Aharonian Marcom.

DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage is a Canadian book that won the 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. DeNiro's Game is a coming of age story which explores two boys growing up in a world where war is the only experience. The young men must choose between a life of crime in Lebanon and exile.

Yalo by Elias Khoury tells the story of Yalo, a criminal, who under torture, is pressed to confess to his brutal crimes over and again, his story ever changing to sustain his life. Yalo is a product of Lebanon's civil war which lasted from 1975 to 1990.

A Good Land by Nada Awar Jarrar is set during the month long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Despite periodic danger the residents of a neighborhood remain constant over the years. Truth, lies, friendship and secrets are revealed as the residents explore the hold that Beirut has on them.

Continuing with the storytelling tradition there is The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. Osama's grandfather is a hakawati, or a storyteller. After many years in the US Osama returns to Beirut to be with his dying father. In 2003 the city is not as he remembers but the spirit of his friends and family remains the same. The Hakawati interweaves traditional Arabic tales and modern stories of life in Lebanon.

Beaufort by Ron Leshem has Liberti, barely a man, leading a group of boys in the Israeli Defence Forces. A tragic and sometimes funny story of boys becoming hardened soldiers. Beaufort was made into an Academy Award nominated film.

The unrest in Lebanon has made it the setting for numerous suspense thrillers including:

Triangle of Deception by Carmon Haggai

Vulcan's Fire by Harold Coyle

Strike Back by Chris Ryan

Season of Betrayal by Margaret Lowrie Robertson in which "Lara McCauley never wanted to go to Beirut. But in 1983, when her husbands career as a foreign correspondent brings her there in the midst of the civil war, she tries to make the best of it for the sake of her marriage. Unlike the other foreign visitors most of whom are hard-charging journalists like her husband Lara cant seem to find her footing in the chaotic city. Although shes relatively insulated from risk, shes as terrified of the frequent eruptions of violence as she is ashamed of her fear. Bored, lonely, and afraid, Lara defies her increasingly bullying husband by befriending a mysterious Polish journalist and beginning to work part-time as a broadcast film editor. But she is an inexperienced player in a dangerous game. As the U.S. mission of presence in Lebanon rapidly morphs into something far more deadly, Lara unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events with devastating consequences." - publisher

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