Lebanon’s history is full of love, pain, death, and rebirths. This roller-coaster of turmoil and triumph is on a constant loop, and we wouldn’t have it any differently (well, maybe). This perpetual cycle of instability and joy gave birth to several generations of lovers, thinkers, artists, writers, rebels, and intellectuals making Lebanon a multi-cultural hub of creativity and literature. To the Lebanese, creating life with words was not an idle activity, rather an unshakeable impulse that demanded to be tended to, time and time again. Here are just a few of the must read books that portray the beauty that stems from that very impulse.

1. De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage

In this novel, protagonists Bassam and George tell tales of love, sex, and pain during Beirut’s civil war. The problems that the characters face in this novel are sadly problems that the Lebanese youth still faces today. Both a heart-melting and heart-breaking read.

Memorable Quotes:

- “Dust was friendly and loved us all. Dust was Beirut’s companion.”

- “Death does not come to you when you face it; death is full of treachery, a coward who only notices the feeble and strikes the blind.”

- “Ten thousand bombs had split the winds and my mother was still in the kitchen smoking her long, white cigarettes.”

2. Koolaids: The Art of War by Rabih Alameddine

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This book constantly jumps through space; through various journal entries by different characters, the reader is told two mirroring stories. The first is that of the civil war in Beirut, and the second being of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. Rabih Alameddine’s whimsical writing style gives the reader a sense of closeness and identification with the struggles told in the book.

Memorable Quotes:

- “In the commemoration of death, I unearthed myself.”

- “The Syrians killed my father, but I blame Yoko.”

- “I did not really know the good old days. People started dying when I came out.”

3. Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die by Rewa Zeinati

This hilarious and refreshing gem reveals the adventures of Lebanese-American poet Rewa Zeinati in Beirut through a series of unrelated Facebook posts. Easy and fun to read, this book offers insight into different social issues found in Beirut, without the heaviness of facts and figures.

Memorable Quotes:

- “Right. So my gym membership expired. Finally. Now I can finally wake up, and not go to the gym, and not feel an ounce of guilt about it.”

- “Everything is a big fucking deal when you’re still under thirty.”

- “In a world that lacks, I’m not sure what’s the best thing one can be accused of. The second best thing must be: indecisiveness. It implies the availability of choice.”

4. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

This book tells the tale of Aaliya, a childless divorced woman who is now cast as “unnecessary” by the society she lives in. An Unnecessary Woman does not only offer readers beautiful language, but it also offers insight into the lives and struggles of “unnecessary” women in Lebanese society.

Memorable Quotes:

- “If literature is my sandbox, then the real world is my hourglass — an hourglass that drains grain by grain. Literature gives me life, and life kills me.”

- “There is non more conformist than one who flaunts his individuality.”

- “I used to find old people, men and women, terribly narcissistic. All they ever want to do is talk about themselves. But then, what are these pages if not an exercise in narcissism?”

Of course, there are several Lebanese and non-Lebanese writers that have experienced Lebanon’s exciting ride through time, and many have described it in their literature. You can read about them here.

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