June 13, 2021

echoes of the lost Lebanese generation

“A song for the missing” (Ein Lied für die Vermissten), by Pierre Jarawan, translated from German by Nicolas Véron, Héloïse d’Ormesson, 464 p., € 23, digital € 16.

“Geography textbooks say that Lebanon is the only Arab country that does not have a desert. But this is not true. The desert is everywhere. ” This omnipresent desert of Lebanon is that of silence. A silence that stifles sorrows, questions, mourning around the 17,415 people officially disappeared during the Lebanese civil war, also called the war in Lebanon. It lasted from 1975 to 1990, opposing among other things Christian militias often competing with the Syrian occupiers and the Palestinian refugees, but in a game of alliances and counter-alliances so complex that it could make yesterday’s enemies the allies. the next day and, again, the enemies of the day after.

When Amin arrived in Lebanon in 1994, he was almost 14 years old. The war is supposed to have ended four years earlier, but there are still attacks everywhere, orchestrated in particular by Syria, whose occupying army had to leave the country. Born in Lebanon in 1980, Amin has no memory of this war; after the death of his parents, said to have been killed in a car accident, he was driven to Germany at the age of a few months by his grandmother. When she brings him back to Lebanon, Amin does not understand why, and the first months of his new existence are entirely occupied by nostalgia for this prosperous and peaceful Germany where he lived until his adolescence. We can talk to him about the beauty of Beirut in the past – “This swirling, motley, variegated city” that some called “The Saint-Tropez of the Levant” and where eighteen religious communities coexisted smoothly – there is no trace of it.

Storytelling skills

Born in 1985 in Amman, Jordan, Pierre Jarawan had already mentioned Lebanon in a magnificent first novel, As long as there are cedars (Héloïse d’Ormesson, 2020). This second fiction confirms the qualities of this young author as a storyteller. Today, Jarawan is one of those writers of foreign origin who renew the themes of German literature, such Sasa Stanisic, born in Visegrad in 1978, Lena Gorelik, born in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) in 1981, Nino Haratischwili, born in Tbilisi in 1983, or Olga Grjasnowa, born in Baku in 1984. Another thirty years ago, Rafik Schami, born in Damascus in 1946 and exiled in Germany in the 1970s, was an exception in the literary panorama.

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