Recent Reading, Beirut

When I move to a new country, I try to make a point of reading books either written by people from that country or set there. It’s fascinating to learn a  little bit more about your new home through the eyes of others and books are a great way of doing this. Beirut I Love You by Zeina El Khalil based on a well known blog written from 1994 onwards and charting life for the author during various Lebanese conflicts was one of my first finds and I highly recommend it. De Niros Game by Rawi Hage and its follow up Cockroach were other books I soon became engrossed in, De Niros Game in particular whilst I found my mind getting carried away with the characters and imagining how people I knew might fit into its plot was rivetting. On this trip I stopped at Virgin Megastore on the way to the beach to pick up Our Man in Beirut written by a talented young writer called Nasri Atallah who writes about his experiences returning to Beirut as an adult, having spent most of his life in the refined surroundings of Kensington, London. Nasri really has his finger on the pulse of Beirut, and i found my self alternately groaning or laughing in recognition at the situations he describes. The other book that caught my attention was Through a Lebanese Window written by a resilient British women called Elizabeth Thorneycroft Smith who started up a foreign arts festival in Lebanon in the early 90’s and stayed in Byblos throughout the 1996 war. I would highly recommend both books, indeed all the ones mentioned on this post, whilst I’m not sure an outsider can every fully understand the Lebanese, these books certainly give an interesting insight into life in Lebanon through a variety of different eyes.

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