In a remarkably quick turnaround time for the preparation and publication of a new book, Saqi Books of London will shortly publish “Lebanon, Lebanon”, a 229-page book responding to the war in Lebanon.
The proceeds of the book will go to children’s charities in Lebanon, as will the proceeds from an evening of readings, music and performance to be held on 27th September, at New Player’s Theatre in central London. The evening is being organized by Saqi together with Pen, Open Democracy, and Index on Censorship.
The book, edited by Anna Wilson, has texts from 50 writers, ranging from poetry and stories to memoir and reportage. There are pictures from 25 artists, and from displaced Lebanese children.
Among the Lebanese writers featured are Hanan al-Shaykh, Hoda Barakat, Abbas Beydoun, Hassan Daoud, Zena El-Khalil, Nada Awar Jarrar, Mai Ghoussoub and Alexandre Najjar. From the Australian-born publisher Carmen Callil there is the memoir “Lebanese Washing Stories”.
Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish is represented by the elegiac sequence “Diaries”. Jean Said Makdisi writes poignantly in “The Little Girl with Gold Earrings” of a dead child who reminds her of her own granddaughters.
British novelist Margaret Drabble writes of her long-standing friendship with the Lebanese writer Rachid El-Daif and of her dream of visiting his hometown of Zgharta. Owen Sheers recalls a meal he had with his girlfriend in a Lebanese restaurant in an Irish village, after three weeks spent watching the Lebanon war on TV. Argentinian-born Jewish writer Alberto Manguel depicts the Beirut he now sees and the city he remembers. The Jewish cookery writer Claudia Roden relives “Mezze in the Bekaa Valley”.
Judith Kazantzis’ “found poem” entitled “The Refugee” is taken verbatim from the English translation of a UN witness statement. In “Too Black, Too Strong”, Malu Halasa recalls coming of age in America and the Middle East as someone of part Jordanian, part Filipino heritage.
There are stories from Pakistan-born writers Aamer Hussein and Kamila Shamsie, and contributions from Doris Lessing, V S Naipaul, Moris Farhi, Toby Litt, Arnold Wesker, Harold Pinter, Adrian Mitchell, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk and Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jalloun. Among the journalists represented are Britons Robert Fisk of the Independent and Brian Whitaker of the Guardian, and the American Charles Glass.