Post-War Anglophone Lebanese Fiction

Post-War Anglophone Lebanese Fiction: Home Matters in the Diaspora

Syrine Hout
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Post-War Anglophone Lebanese Fiction
    Book Description:

    This book examines the phenomenon of the post-civil war Anglophone Lebanese fictional narrative. The texts chosen for study have been produced in, and are substantially about, life in exile. They therefore deal not only with the brutal civil strife in Lebanon (1975–1990) but with one of its crucial and long-standing by-products: expatriation. Syrine Hout shows how these texts characterise a distinctly new literary and cultural trend and have founded an Anglophone Lebanese diasporic literature.The authors discussed in the book are Rabih Alameddine, Tony Hanania, Rawi Hage, Nada Awar Jarra, Patricia Sarrafian Ward and Nathalie Ab-Ezzi. In her exploration of their writings Hout teases out the different meanings and reformulations of home, be it Lebanon as a nation, a house, a host country, an irretrievable pre-war childhood, a state of in-between dwelling, a portable state of mind, and/or a utopian ideal.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4343-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Rasheed El-Enany

    A new and unique series, ‘Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature’ will, it is hoped, fill in a gap in scholarship in the field of modern Arabic literature. Its dedication to Arabic literature in the modern period, that is, from the nineteenth century onwards, is what makes it unique among series undertaken by academic publishers in the English-speaking world. Individual books on modern Arabic literature in general or aspects of it have been and continue to be published sporadically. Series on Islamic studies and Arab/Islamic thought and civilisation are not in short supply either in the academic world, but these...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    This book is the result of a ten-year academic engagement with contemporary Anglophone Lebanese fiction. These texts captured my attention for several reasons, not least because their hard-hitting recollections of the Lebanese Civil War and its long-term effects on youth echoed some of my own experiences. In addition, the ever-increasing size of this corpus, coupled with mounting international acclaim, demanded that it be examined, in a comparative framework, as the product of an entirely new generation of fresh voices reflecting (on) the conflict from a post-war perspective and geographically distant, that is, diasporic, locations. I belong to the same generation...

  6. Introduction Post-War Anglophone Lebanese Fiction: Roots and Routes
    (pp. 1-18)

    Wars have always acted as stimuli for writers. Mustapha Marrouchi describes the twenty-one years between 1982 (Israel’s invasion of Lebanon) and 2003 (the US-led invasion of Iraq) as having witnessed ‘a single explosive development in Arabic literature’ indicating a cultural shift marked by ‘an exuberant nastiness’ and ‘a violent rush of words’ (2010: par. 2). This rupture from literary tradition, he argues, can be seen markedly in writings by several Arabic- and foreign-language Lebanese authors, both established and emergent, such as Elias Khoury, Hoda Barakat, Hanan al-Shaykh, Ghada Samman, Etel Adnan, Mai Ghoussoub, Jad el Hage, Rabih Alameddine, Patricia Sarrafian...

  7. Part I Homesickness and Sickness of Home

    • 1 Koolaids and Unreal City
      (pp. 21-51)

      Recent sociological studies of diasporic representations of Lebanon by first-generation immigrants have yielded complex perceptions of home in reference to both Lebanon-as-homeland and various host countries. Dalia Abdelhady concludes that these immigrants’ personal connections to their homeland are but one among many forms of attachment and ‘ways of being at home’ abroad (2010: 146). Their cosmopolitan realities, she explains, reveal Hamid Naficy’s concept of moveable and therefore temporary homelands, which challenges conventional notions of belonging. Though still present, Lebanon ‘serves as a starting point for creating [new] homes’ (147) and so remains vital to redefining their national identities, but it...

    • 2 The Perv and Somewhere, Home
      (pp. 52-72)

      The phenomenon of the Lebanese diaspora has received its share of attention, its literature generally being designated as ‘modern’ (recent) rather than ‘historical’ (established in antiquity) or ‘incipient’ (in the making) (Sheffer 2003: 75).¹ The ratio of Lebanese abroad to those in Lebanon, about four million, is five or six to one (Cooke 1996: 269). Michael Humphrey asserts that the term ‘diaspora’ moves between the particularity of an historical experience and the existential condition which metaphorises postmodernity in its characteristics of ‘uncertainty, displacement and fragmented identity’ (2004: par. 4). Contemporary use of the phrase ‘Lebanese diaspora’ is therefore the by-product...

  8. Part II Trauma Narratives:: The Scars of War

    • 3 I, the Divine and The Bullet Collection
      (pp. 75-102)

      Trauma theory emerged in the US in the early 1990s, a decade after Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first included in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Geoffrey Hartman emphasises that the spectrum of trauma theory ranges from the personal to the collective due to its inclusion of ‘war and genocide’, ‘rape, and the abuse of women and children’ as well as ‘daily hurt’ (1995: 546).

      Traumatic stress is ‘caused by life-threatening or self-threatening events that are accompanied by fear, helplessness, or horror’ (Resick 2001: 28), and may result in a range of problems, such as PTSD, acute...

  9. Part III Playing with Fire at Home and Abroad

    • 4 The Hakawati and A Girl Made of Dust
      (pp. 105-127)

      Loss of innocence, as shown earlier a hallmark process hastening the end of childhood, is both a major topic and an organising principle in several post-war Anglophone Lebanese narratives. Having left immediately after the hostilities began in 1975, regardless of age, or having lived through the conflict as an adult with multiple coping strategies at hand (of which writing is one), is much easier than having witnessed the same brutalities and graduated from the ‘school of war’ in one’s teens or early twenties. This argument, taken from Alexandre Najjar’s 1999 autobiographical novel L’Ecole de la guerre (The School of War),...

    • 5 De Niro’s Game
      (pp. 128-156)

      As seen in Chapter 4, Elie and Naji played with fire by joining leftist and rightist militias, respectively, and got burned, sustaining both physical and emotional injuries. The first-person narratives of family members – Osama and Ruba – carved out for these two young men a space in which to voice their anger, rebellion and political enthusiasm, as well as their eventual disillusionment and regret. Both were from poor families with no opportunity to leave the war zone and so fought for their visions, however skewed, of Lebanon-as-homeland. In addition to The Hakawati and A Girl Made of Dust’s shared concern with...

  10. Part IV Exile versus Repatriation

    • 6 Cockroach and A Good Land
      (pp. 159-198)

      I have chosen to juxtapose Nada Awar Jarrar’s third novel, A Good Land, with Rawi Hage’s second, Cockroach, because of their treatments of the respective themes of repatriation/homecoming and expatriation/exile, and the corresponding portrayals of lives spent, in the present, entirely in or outside of Lebanon. The epigram preceding A Good Land is a telling quotation from Austrian psychiatrist, existential analyst and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl:

      For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 199-202)

    Home, ideally, is where an individual or a group belongs ‘territorially, existentially, and culturally’ (Hedetoft and Mette 2002: vii). Although not the only criterion, nationalism shapes many people’s sense of identity and belonging (viii). A sense of ‘homeness’ is a major determinant of identity, that ‘elusive but still real psycho-sociological state of being in sync with oneself under given external conditions’; affectively defined, these two scholars argue, ‘home is where we feel we really belong’ (vii, emphasis in original). When the feeling of harmony between self and place is non-existent because of a mismatch between one’s cultural, ethnic, political and/or...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-252)