Everyday Writing in an Extraordinary City: New Perspectives on Beirut

By Ghenwa Hayek
Submitted to Session P4025 (Lebanese Writing Beyond al-Ahdath, 2015 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
In this presentation, I examine a range of novels written by a new generation of young Lebanese writers, and use these texts to argue that new writing practices and forms that emphasize the daily practices of everyday life in the city have emerged as Beirut and Lebanon continue to careen through turbulent, albeit relatively peaceful, times. In emphasizing the ordinary, mundane, and everyday activities of their young millennial protagonists, these novels produce a new form of literary resistance to the erasure of the past that they share with an earlier generation of writers. However, in a significant departure from earlier forms of contemporary Lebanese writing, young novelists like Sahar Mandour, Hilal Chouman and Rabee Jaber produce work that examines and interrogates Beirut’s and Lebanon’s recent past yet moves away from a rhetoric of blame or victimization prevalent in earlier fiction that focuses on the civil war and its aftermath. Yet, I also argue that this new type of fiction is not without its own anxieties, most specifically about the very real possibility of impending violence and the need for imminent departure in the future. Within the novels I explore in this presentation, I argue, this is often articulated as a strengthened attachment to continuing ordinary, everyday life in the extraordinary city of Beirut.